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A GAME OF CHANCE 



NEW AND POPULAR NOVELS 

AT ALL THE LIBRARIES 



VIOLET VYVIAN, M.F.H. By May Crommelin and 

J. Moray Brown. 3 vols. 

RESTITUTION. By Awne Beale, author of 'Fay 



MISTRESS BEATRICE COPE, or Passages in the 

LiFK OF A Jacobite's Daughter. By M. E. Le Clerc. 2 vols. 

THROUGH THE LONG NIGHT. By Mrs. E. Lynn 

Linton, author of ' Patricia Kemball,' &c. 3 vols. 

DORINDA. By The Countess of Munster. 3 vols. 



MURST & BLACKETT, 13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 



A GAME OF CHANCE 



A NOVEL 



ELLA J. CURTIS 

(SHIRLEY SMITH) 

AUTHOK OP 

THE FAVOURITE OF FOWTUNK," " ALL l->K HEKSELF," " HIS LAST STAKE, 

ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. 1 



LONDON 

HUBST AND BLACKETT, LIMITED 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET 

1889 

All Ki^hls Rescfved 



PRINTED BY 

TILLOTSON AND SON, MAWDSLEY STREET 

BOLTON 



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TO 

ALFRED WILLIAMS MOMERIE 



Q (BY KIND PERMISSION) 



I HAVE THE HONOUR 



^ OF DEDICATING 

"A GAME OF CHANCE.' 



CONTENTS 



OF 



1 H E FIRST VOLUME 



CHAPTER 

I.— TO INDIA 

II.— THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS . 
III. — THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS 
IV. -FIRE AND SMOKE .... 
V. — HIS enemy's DAUGHTER . 
VI.— THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER 
VII.— THE NOMINATION .... 
VIII.- THE TALK OF THE TOWN 
IX.— AN ADVENTURE .... 

X,— OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF 
XI. — THE NEWS FROM INDIA . 
XII.- MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD 



PAGE 

I 

H 

31 

43 

59 

76 

86 

100 

113 

131 

144 

i=;6 



COxNTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



CHAl'TEK 

XIII. -THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS 
XIV. — THE rector's HAT . 
XV. — OTWAY IX CHAINS . 
XVI. — A LETTER FROM JACK 
XVII.— NO. 200 (queen's GATE TERRACE 
XVIII. — A WOMAX'S FOLLY . 

XIX. - LETTY AXD IIER SLAVE . 

XX. — ROSSITUR AGAIxX 
XXI. — THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 
XXII. — THE STREET BRAWL . 
XXIII. — MRS. FORSTER's CONCERT. 
XXIV.— OTWAV OBEYS ORDERS 
XXV. — LETIY GIVES HER OPINION 
XXVI. — THE WEDDING-DAY . 



I'AOK 
167 

204 
217 

227 
240 

263 

277 
289 
300 

320 



A GAME OF CHANCE. 



C H A P T E R I . 

TO INDIA. 

Everyone in the place was more or less 
excited when the news got abroad that young 
John Erskine's regiment was under orders 
for India, and the excitement became quite 
intense as soon as it was known, positively, 
that Sir John and Aunt Louise, and little 
Letty were actually going to Portsmouth to 
see him off. It was the first event of any 
great importance that had happened in the 
rather sleepy little town since the young man 

VOL. I. B 



2 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

had joined his regiment, about a year before, 
and it was made the most of ; people who 
were not interested might have said that 
too much was made of it. 

But then everything connected with the 
Erskines was of importance in the town and 
neighbourhood ; and their most private affairs, 
in some unaccountable manner, got into the 
air, as it seemed, and became public property 
even while the family were still talking about 
them in whispers and with closed doors. It 
might even be said with truth that the gossips 
somehow got hold of the vaguest rumours 
and served them up as accomplished facts ; 
and that sort of thing had gone on for ages, 
and would, perhaps, go on for ever. A great 
many years ago the facts, or perhaps to speak 
more truly, the fictions connected with the 
tragic death of a young Erskine at a gaming- 
table abroad, were bandied about in the little 
town before anyone had had the courage to 
break the news of his son's death to a de- 



TO INDIA. 3 

voted father. And in the same mysterious 
way it was known that a sister of the present 
Sir John Erskine, who had married young 
and not in accordance with the wishes of her 
family, was "running a rig," as it was called, 
in London, and getting her husband into debt 
and difficulties, while, by her friends, she was 
supposed to be leading a quiet and orderly 
life. 

The good people of the small town of 
Little Centre Bridge — so called because there 
was a Great Centre Bridge some six miles 
off — being gifted with this extraordinary 
power of divination, or second sight, in 
all matters connected with the families of 
the lords of the manor — and the gift seemed 
hereditary — there is nothing surprising in the 
fact that when the doctor's wife, Mrs. Sumner, 
and the lawyer's wife, ^Nlrs. \'erity, and Mrs. 
Dysart-Smith who was "lady principal" of 
the Erskine Colleo^e for Younor Ladies, met at 
little Miss ]\Iasham's for afternoon tea, they 



4 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

should have talked of nothing but the fact 
that John Erskine's regiment was ordered to 
India. 

And it was not such a wonderful or un- 
common event after all ; only sons go to India 
ev^ry day and take their chance with the rest, 
and young John was not such a paragon 
that his absence would make a blank, or his 
presence cause a sensation. But the fact was, 
he was the first Erskine who had become a 
soldier since the Erskine who fought and died 
at Bannockburn, and his choice of a profes- 
sion had been canvassed, and talked over, and 
wondered at, long after the slight surprise it 
caused to his family and friends had died out. 

The Erskines were not a very prolific, but 
they were a prosperous family ; now and then, 
as was natural, and to be expected, an event 
happened that seemed for a time to check 
the steady flow of good fortune that followed 
them ; a sailor lad would be lost at sea, a 
daughter's husband would go to the bad. 



TO INDIA. 5 

or, perhaps, the daughter herself prove un- 
worthy of her name. But the eldest sons, 
if not specially gifted in any way, were always 
blameless and honourable young fellows, who 
went to school and college, travelled a little, 
and then settled down in contentment at the 
Chase, shooting, fishing, hunting, and dancing 
at the county balls ; then, when their time 
came, they fell in love and married women 
whose families and antecedents would bear 
the closest inspection. If these women had 
fortunes, so much the better, but no amount 
of money would compensate for want of 
breeding or levity of conduct. 

When the first break in the regular routine 
occurred, and young John Erskine's photo- 
graph in full uniform was seen by visitors 
upon a table in the drawing-room at the 
Chase, it was immediately said, not by the 
family, of course, that further innovations 
might presently be expected. He would 
never marry the " right woman," that is, 



6 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

the young lady his father had picked out 
for him ; he would choose for himself, and 
there was no knowing what would happen 
by and by. Everyone knew the sort of girl 
that officers fell in love with in garrison 
towns, and young John, although very 
amiable and agreeable, was just the sort of 
easy-going, unsuspicious young fellow to be 
taken in. That was the talk of the little 
town. 

The family at the Chase, naturally enough, 
had no misgivings ; John was going to be a 
soldier, but, all the same, he would marry the 
right woman when the time came. There 
were people who said that his father, Sir 
John, a fine, tall, handsome man of fifty-five 
or sixty, would marry again and astonish 
everyone' He lost his wife when John was 
a lad at school and his daughter, Letty, a 
baby of three or four years old. There was 
an interval of over ten years between the 
brother and sister, and when Lady Erskine, 



TO INDIA. 7 

whose health had failed soon after Letty was 
born, died in bringing her third child pre- 
maturely into the world, her maiden sister — 
her senior by nearly twenty years — came to 
the Chase and devoted herself to the widower 
and his children. 

Miss Lambton, or Aunt Louise as she w^as 
called, was a pattern maiden aunt ; the very 
essence of amiability, sensible, gentle, good- 
tempered and refined; but she was absolutely 
without even one strong point in her character, 
and wholly devoid of a will of her own. She 
would dance to any tune, wild or serious, 
piped by any player, and she accepted any 
proposition, no matter how preposterous or 
unorthodox ; she never argued ; was never 
known to utter a contradiction, and vaeue 
surmise was to her as satisfactory and con- 
clusive as testimony taken on oath. 

With her brother-in-law she o-ot on ad- 
mirably ; she was in every respect a striking 
contrast to the wife he had lost. Lady 



8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Erskine had been a very pretty, self-willed, 
quick-tempered, loving and impulsive little 
woman, nearly twenty years younger than 
Sir John, who argued persistently and con- 
tradicted flatly for the mere love of argument 
and contradiction. She was fond of her 
husband, but she took delight in teasing him, 
and it is impossible to say what storms might 
not have arisen to disturb the peace of their 
joint lives had not all her faults and failings 
been buried in her early grave. 

When Aunt Louise reigned in her sister's 
room. Sir John left the management of his 
house and children entirely to her, and lived 
the out-of-door life that suited him, and that 
he loved. But Aunt Louise was, in reality, 
managed by the household and children ; the 
servants were her masters and mistresses ; 
they complained to her if they had fault to 
find with her arrangements, and she was 
occasionally discharged, so to speak, by her 
domestics, not her domestics by her. But 



TO INDIA. 9 

she was quite unconscious of her state of 
bondage. 

As for the children, they domineered over 
her without mercy. They issued their im- 
perious commands to Aunt Louise, and Aunt 
Louise meekly obeyed, although her nephew, 
who was accustomed to school discipline, 
would have bowed before authority had any 
been exercised over him. Little Letty had 
been spoiled from her cradle, and if she had 
not had, by nature, the sweetest disposition 
in the world, she would have been ruined by 
the joint indulgences of father and aunt. She 
was a pretty little brown-eyed maid of fifteen, 
when her brother, to whom she was devoted, 
joined his regiment, and she was the only 
member of the household who really rejoiced 
over his choice of a profession. 

When his reo-iment was under orders for 
India, and he came to the Chase to say good- 
bye, he brought with him a young brother- 
officer, and Aunt Louise was half-shocked 



lO A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and half-frightened at the premature flirtation 
that was carried on between him and little 
Letty. He was a handsome, merry lad — 
younger in years and in ways than his friend 
John Erskine — and he asked no better fun 
than to be carried off by Letty for a long 
ramble across the country. The pair would 
be out for hours, accompanied by half-a-dozen 
dogs, but as they always came back safe, as 
well as tired, happy and not too clean, Aunt 
Louise had not the heart to scold her pet, or 
to forbid the expedition that was planned in 
her hearing for the next day. 

There was not a trace of sentiment in 
Letty's frank liking for her new friend ; her 
brother was the dearest fellow in the world, 
but Arthur Filmer was, if possible, a more 
delightful companion than John. Everything 
was new to Arthur ; he had never been in 
that part of the country before, so Letty had 
the pleasure of introducing him to all her 
favourite haunts ; and then he had so much 



TO INDIA. ir 

to tell her of his own beautiful home in 
Devonshire — legends and tales of wild Dart- 
moor and Exmoor, that were far more thril- 
ling than any of the somewhat twaddling 
kind of stories provided by the timid Aunt 
Louise for the amusement of her niece. 

'' You must come and see us at Brentmore 
some day," the young man said about twent)^ 
times durino: his short visit to the Chase, 
" when Jack and I come home on leave. 
We can give your father lots of prime 
shooting and fishing, and I'll show you every 
place worth seeing for miles round. Re- 
member, it's a bargain." 

Those were his last words as he said 
good-bye to the girl at the Litde Centre 
Bridge railway station, and Mrs. Sumner and 
Mrs. Verity, who happened to be there 
changing their library books at \V. H. Smith 
and Son's stall, looked at one another and 
smiled knowingly when they saw how the 
handsome young fellow leaned out of the 



12 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

carriage window to say good-bye once more 
to the pretty little girl who gave him just as 
hearty a kiss as she gave to her brother. 

" I think she Is too old to be allowed to 
kiss young men at railway stations, don't 
you, Mrs. Smith ?" Mrs. Sumner said when 
she described what had taken place to the 
principal of Ersklne College. 

Letty did not hear any of the comments 
that were made upon her conduct, nor the 
prophecies that were delivered upon her fate 
In the future If some timely check were not 
put upon her propensity to flirt before it was 
too late. It was simply as a pleasant com- 
panion that she missed Arthur, and she told 
him so several times In the childishly effusive 
letter she wrote to thank him for a copy of 
Blackmore's " Lorna Doone," which, by per- 
mission of Aunt Louise, arrived at the Chase 
the day but one after the young man left. 

It was after dinner on the day of their 
departure that a bright idea struck Sir John. 



TO INDIA. 13, 

*' Why shouldn't we all go and see them 
off at Portsmouth," he said. " Let me see ; 
when does the Great Pyramid sail ? You 
know, Letty, Til be bound." 

Letty did know ; the troopship with the 
99th Dragoons on board was to sail that 
very day week, the 2nd of October. 

*'A11 right," said Sir John. "We'll see 
the last of them. You write for rooms, 
Louise, and Lll put off the fellows who are 
coming here for the ist." 

Letty's eyes were sparkling. *'And I may 
write and tell John ?" she said. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 

It was in the middle of September that 
Arthur Filmer and Letty Erskine were ram- 
bling together about the country, and one 
beautiful evening, just about the time the 
party at the Chase was sitting down to 
dinner, a young man and a girl were walking 
side by side along a glade in a wood, about 
fifty miles from Little Centre Bridge, and the 
low sun that was streaming through the 
open windows of the Erskines' dining-room, 
and playing upon young John's handsome, 
boyish face, was glinting through the boles 
of the Stillingfort oaks and beeches, and 
throwing fantastic lights and shadows upon 
the uncovered head of the girl and the 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 5 

brown velveteen shooting - jacket of the 
man. 

As young John turned away his dazzled 
eyes, and suggested the letting down of a 
blind, he thought how many years he had, 
young as he was, been half- blinded by the 
sun on late summer evenings in that very 
spot ; and he wondered vaguely, as people 
do, what would have happened before his 
next long visit to the dear old home. Of 
course he would often be there again ; it was 
only a question of time ; in a few years he 
would be in E norland on lone: leave, and 
he would find the dear old governor and 
Aunt Louise just the same ; they were the 
sort of people who never grow old. Letty 
would be grown up, of course ; but not 
married, for he must be at her wedding. 

The girl, who was walking through the 
woodland glade with the sunlight glinting 
on her f^Ir hair, had never heard of the 
Ersklnes, and yet the mysterious power 



1 6 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

we call Destiny was already drawing her 
towards them, and was about to make the 
name of more Interest and Importance to her 
than any name she had ever heard. 

Her own name was Bella Rossltur ; she 
was the daughter of Farmer Rossltur, who 
was one of the principal tenants on Lord 
Stilllngfort's estate, and the man beside 
her was Jem Hathaway, one of his lord- 
ship's keepers. The wood was his lordship's 
property, and It was part of Jem's business 
to walk through It and about It continually 
at all hours of the day and night with a gun 
on his shoulder. But whether It was also his 
business to be accompanied, as on this par- 
ticular evening, by Farmer Rossltur's hand- 
some daughter, may be left an open question. 

Whether It was or was not she was with 
him now, and, as a matter of fact, she had 
been with him almost every evening for 
nearly a month. She did not 11^ at home, 
for she was a lady's maid, and had come 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 7 

from London to say good-bye to her friends, 
as she was going to India the first week in 
October with her new mistress, a very young 
lady who was going out to join her father. 

Bella Rossitur was a remarkably handsome 
girl, and it was a curious fact that there was 
a certain amount of likeness between her and 
the young lady by whom she had been 
recently engaged. It was only when those 
who knew both of them saw them apart that 
the likeness was at all remarkable ; put them 
side by side and it seemed to vanish al- 
together. In fact it was only what has been 
called a reminding resemblance. Bella was 
a much finer woman than her mistress, and 
she was also a little older ; but they both had 
a profusion of beautiful, light, almost tiaxen 
hair, and very dark eyes. The eyes of the 
maid were, in some respects, more lovely 
than those of the mistress, but what they had 
in beauty they lacked in softness and sweet- 
ness, and they were also a trifle bold at 
VOL. I. c 



1 8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

times. Her lips, too, were fuller and redder, 
and her nose, although the same in shape, 
was much larger and more pronounced. Also 
she was taller by fully an inch, and her figure 
was more developed ; indeed, at that time, 
the figure of her young mistress, Miss Amy 
Gordon, was rather thin and willowy, but 
very pretty and graceful withal. 

Bella was very much pleased with her new 
engagement ; she loved change and excite- 
ment, and she knew she was sure of the 
one and hoped to have the other, not only 
during the voyage, but also in India. She 
had a vivid imagination, and it was already 
at work. Who could tell what was in store 
for her. With her handsome face and fine 
figure and her opportunities, she ought to be 
able to attain a good position in life. 

At present she had an humble victim in 
Jem Hathaway. They had been little chil- 
dren and boy and girl together, and he was 
desperately in love with her now ; but she 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 9 

was not going to marry a gamekeeper, and 
besides, Jem was such an ugly fellow, not 
handsome and dashing like another old friend 
of hers, who happened to be in the village 
just then ; a young soldier he was, too, and 
he looked so bold and manly in his uniform 
that the very sight of him was almost enough 
to turn a girl's head. 

And was it not just the oddest thing in 
the world ? George Frederick Pottinger — 
she always spoke of him by the two names — 
was not only a soldier, but an officer's 
servant, and he was going with his regiment 
and his master to India. It was even pos- 
sible that she and her mistress mi^fht sail in 
the same vessel ; but she was not Qfoinor to 
tell Jem anything about it, he was so jealous 
there was no knowing what he might say or 
do. 

He was not very talkative this evening, 
and she was beginning to feel bored ; if it 
had been George Frederick he would not 



20 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

have let such an opportunity for love-making 
slip through his fingers ! She was planning 
what excuse she could make to get away 
when Jem spoke. 

'' India's a cruel way off, Bella," he said, 
** I wish you weren't going." 

'* And I wish I was going to-morrow," she 
answered, briskly. '' I am tired of being 
here ; the first week was pleasant enough," 
and she shot a saucy look at him, '' but now 
you're always grumpy and cross. I am sure 
you didn't speak more than two words to me 
last night when I went to take tea with your 
mother, and " 

Jem laughed. 

" What are you laughing at ?'' In a 
moment the girl's handsome eyes were blaz- 
ing with anger. *' Is it because George 
Frederick Pottinger came with me that 
you're vexed ?" she cried, in a passion. 
*' How could I help that ? He told me your 
mother had asked him." 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 2 1 

'' Like his cheek !" Jem muttered. Then, 
after a pause, " I tell you what it is, Bella," 
he said, and he turned and faced her, " I 
won't stand being made a fool of any longer ; 
you must choose between him and me. You 
know well enough I don't think there's 
another woman in the world like you. Stay 
in England and let's get married at once ; I 
can keep you almost like a lady, and I'm to 
have the head-keeper's place when old Stub- 
bins is pensioned off in the spring. You can 
do what you like with me ; you know you 
can," the poor fellow added, for something in 
her face told him he was not going to win 
her, and his disappointment was very bitter. 

'' Like a lady," she repeated, scornfully ; 
''you couldn't do that, you know, Jem, unless 
you were a gentleman." 

" You need never do a stroke of work 
unless you like, and Lll buy you a silk dress 
every year." 

" Much obliged to you, Lm sure, Jem," she 



22 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

answered, *'but I couldn't marry you. I like 
you well enough, but I want to see the world 
and amuse myself." 

*' And are you going to marry Pottlnger?" 

he almost shouted. " By ," and he 

swore a great oath, " if you do I'll shoot 
him, or myself, for I couldn't bear to live !" 

'' But he hasn't asked me ; I'll swear he 
hasn't, If you like. Oh, Jem, dear Jem, for 
shame to be so cross and to talk of shooting 
people !" She laid her hand upon his arm 
and looked up Into his face, smiling at him. 

" I never saw anyone so pretty as you, 
Bella," he said. "I can't bear to think of 
your going away among those black people. 
Didn't they break out once, and kill all the 
women and children ? Don't go ; even If 
you won't have me, don't go." 

He laid his gun on the ground, and tried 
to take her in his arms. " One kiss, Bella," 
he said, ''only one, and I'll not worry you 
any more." 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 23 

" Remember your promise," she said. She 
wanted to get away from him ; someone 
might be coming to look for her. 

'*Ay," he said, "it's hard, but as long as 
you don't take him I'll be patient and hope." 

She let him kiss her, and then, without a 
word, she broke away from him and ran down 
a little pathway through the trec^s that she 
knew would lead her to her home. 

In about ten days from that evening Bella 
Rossitur was to go to London to enter upon 
her new service, and every hour as it passed, 
made poor Jem Hathaway more and more 
miserable. Her assurance that she was not 
going to marry Pottinger had had the two- 
fold effect of allaying his jealousy and of 
buoying up his hopes. She was only trying 
him, he thought ; she did not really mean to 
go away, and when the day, which she had 
named as her last at home, came, she would 
tell him she had changed her mind and 
meant to stay with him. His hopes increased 



24 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

when he found out that Pottinger had gone 
away, but he did not know that he had simply 
left for a day or two on business, for his fur- 
lough had not yet expired. 

It was very trying, however, to note that 
Bella kept out of his way ; she always had 
some excuse to make for not walking with 
him In the wood, and for not visiting his 
mother. He went to her father's house twice 
a day sometimes, but although the farmer was 
civil, and Bella apparently glad to see him, 
she would not promise to meet him anywhere 
out of doors and alone. 

Her stay at home was now very short, 
and his newly-born hopes began all of a 
sudden to die out rapidly. That kiss — how 
the remembrance of It was cherished ! — meant 
nothing after all ; and yet how freely she had 
given It, and how beautiful she looked as she 
raised her face to his. He felt sometimes 
as if he would rather kill her than lose 
her. 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 25 

It was the 20th of September, and on the 
23rd he knew she was to go to London. 
Three times during the day he went to the 
farm, and the third time she told him quite 
crossly that she did not mean to go out at all 
that evening, and that she wished he would 
mind his business and let her alone. 

Shouldering his gun he turned away dis- 
consolately, and tramped, his heart growing 
sore and angry with every step, to a distant 
part of the preserves. He was on his way 
home about nine o'clock, and avoiding a 
short cut that he knew, he went a quarter-of- 
a-mile round in order to pass the spot where 
his last interview with Bella had taken place, 
Perhaps something had impelled her to come 
out, and that he mlorht find her waitino^ for 
him. 

He came out into the glade about two 
hundred yards or so from the tree under 
which they were standing when he kissed 
her, and by the light of the full moon he saw 



26 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

she was there, but not alone. Her com- 
panion was easily recognised by his uniform, 
even if the tall upright figure, and cap 
perched on three hairs, had not betrayed the 
good-looking young dragoon, Pottlnger. Jem 
knew that he was unobserved, so, crossing the 
narrow glade he disappeared among the trees, 
and worked his way noiselessly through the 
brushwood until he found himself within 
sight of the pair again ; within hearing, too, 
for they did not speak In whispers. 

He crept nearer and nearer. 

" And so you never told Jem I was 
going to India, too ?" he heard Pottlnger say. 
"What a lark! And In the same ship! 
Think of that, my beauty." 

Poor Jem ground his teeth as he heard the 
words. How cruelly she had deceived him, 
and how happy and beautiful she looked 
standing there in the moonlight, with the 
soldier's arm round her waist ! Hathaway 
placed his gun against a tree and felt In the 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 2/ 

breast pocket of his shooting-jacket for some- 
thing which for ten days or a fortnight past 
he had carried about with him. There were 
gangs of poachers In the neighbourhood, and 
armed with their guns only the keepers were 
apt to be at a disadvantage." 

" I heard from master this morning," 
Pottlno^er went on. " He's home on leave 
now, and I must go over to Little Centre 
Bridge, to his father's place, to-morrow; I am 
to take some dogs up to town for him." 

**'\Vhat Is his name ?" asked Bella. 

'* Ersklne. Mr. John Ersklne. His father 
is Sir John. I'm glad Mr. Ersklne has 
engaged me to wait on him ; I shan't have to 
wear uniform except on parade." 

"Shan't you Indeed?" cried Bella, with a 
shade of disappointment in her tone ; half the 
young soldier's attraction for her, had he but 
known It, lay in his scarlet coat and jingling 
spurs. She turned the conversation by ask- 
ing the name of the ship. 



28 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

"She's called the Great Pyramid," Pottin- 
ger answered. " You will be surprised when 
you see her ; she's as big as a tower. And 
now look here, Bella, If I catch you flirting 
with anyone on board " 

'' Oh ! If you're going to be jealous like 
Jem," she Interrupted — 

" Jem !" was the contemptuous answer. 
*' What business has a fellow like that — a 
common gamekeeper — to raise his eyes to a 
girl like you ?" 

Before the words were fairly uttered there 
was a sharp report behind the speaker, and a 
bullet whistled past his ear, and fell harmless. 
A loud scream from Bella was followed by a 
second shot, and the noise of a heavy body 
falling in the brushwood. Pottinger dashed 
in, followed by the terrified girl, and the next 
moment they were both kneeling beside the 
bleeding and apparently lifeless body of poor 
Jem Hathaway. In his right hand was 
grasped a revolver. 



THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 29 

As Pottinger raised him he opened his 
eyes, and fixed them upon his hated rival ; 
then, with an effort, he turned them upon 
Bella. " Curse — my curse upon you 
both," he muttered ; then his head fell 
back upon the soldier's arm and he was 
dead. 

Goaded to madness by jealousy, the 
unhappy man had fired first, either at Bella 
or at his rival — it was of course never known 
which of them he meant to kill, — and then 
shot himself Pottino^er and Bella were both 

o 

examined at the inquest, and the fact that the 
men were rivals naturally came out and was 
made the most of ; but stories of love, 
jealousy, attempted murder and suicide are 
not so very uncommon, and a verdict of 
*' temporary insanity " was returned. 

The departure of Mr. John Erskine's 
soldier-servant, and of Miss Amy Gordon's 
new maid, was delayed for one day only; and 
it was with the remembrance of poor Jem 



30 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Hathaway's dead face and dying words to 
haunt her, that Bella Rossitur began her new 
life. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 

Miss Amy Gordon was extremely interested 
and excited at the idea of going to India in a 
troopship; her ideas on the subject of both 
troops and ships were extremely vague, but 
she had an idea that life on board the ship 
might possibly be made more agreeable by 
the presence of the troops. She had the 
ordinary and commonplace love of an empty- 
headed schoolgirl for red coats and military 
bands ; she also loved dancing, and was not 
averse to flirtation. 

She did .not belong to the advanced sec- 
tion of young women, and she had not the 
slightest desire for the higher education we 
hear so much of at present. Books, unless 



32 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

they took the form of novels, she never 
opened, but in the matter of dress she was 
decidedly an expert. The great question — 
what to wear, would occupy her for 
hours, and upon her elaborate Indian outfit 
days, weeks, and even months, had been 
bestowed. It was now finished and packed 
away in tin-lined cases ready for embarka- 
tion, and nothing remained to be done but 
to make the most of the small space left for 
the garments that were to be worn during the 
voyage. 

It seemed, to the pretty spoiled girl, that 
those in authority might have afforded her a 
little more room on board the Great Pyramid, 
but her petulant grumbling was of no avail, 
and the amount of time she, and her clever 
maid, Rossitur, spent in the stowage of 
numerous articles that, in all probability, 
would prove quite useless on the voyage, 
was really amazing, 

'' Rossitur is a treasure ! I really consider 



THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. T,^ 

myself very fortunate to have got her." Miss 
Gordon made that remark to her aunt, Mrs. 
Cartwright, with whom she was spending her 
last weeks in England, several times a day. 

" She seems to understand her business 
very thoroughly," Mrs. Cartwright answered, 
"but I cannot help wishing she was a little 
older, and a little less good-looking. You 
are so young and pretty yourself, my dear — 
and, really, when she is dressed for walking, 
a stranger might take you for sisters." 

Miss Amy had heard that remark before, 
and she did not like it. " I do not think it is 
very complimentary to me, aunt, to say I am 
like my own maid," she said. '' Rossitur is 
not bad-looking, I know, but I cannot see the 
likeness to me." 

" I do not think you need expect to keep 
her long, my dear. She is sure to have 
plenty of admirers, and I do trust she is 
steady and well-behaved." 

'' Goodness, aunt, what disagreeable things 

VOL. I. D 



34 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

you say. She may have as many admirers 
as she Hkes, but I am not going to let her 
marry anyone, If I can help It ; but she has a 
lover already, and — Isn't It funny? — he Is 
an officer's servant, and he Is coming out 
with the regiment on board the Great 
Pyramid." 

'' Do you mean that his master Is In the 
99th?" said Mrs. Cartwrlght. 

Now Miss Gordon was going out under 
the care of the wife of the Colonel of John 
Ersklne's regiment, and the young lady knew 
already as much as Rossltur could tell her 
of Pottlnger's young master. 

" Mr. Ersklne Is the only son of Sir 
John Ersklne, of the Chase — somewhere," 
Miss Amy answered. '' Very rich county 
people they are. I am thinking of setting 
my cap at this John Ersklne If I get the 
chance ! Wouldn't it be fun to arrive In 
India engaged. All the men In papa's regi- 
ment would be so awfully disappointed. And, 



THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 35 

oh, aunt," the young lady rattled on, " do you 
know that a dreadful thing happened where 
Rossltur's home is, just before she came up 
to town ? A man shot himself because she 
wouldn't marry him, and she saw him lying 
dead. Wasn't it awful ? I said to her, 
' What strong nerves you must have ;' 
and, do you know, she turned a little pale 
as she was telling me about it, and I gave 
her my salts to smell. I could not help 
thinking, too, how dreadful it would be if 
Fred Leslie were to shoot himself on my 

account." 

Mrs. Cartwright smiled. '' I do not think 

you need be uneasy about Mr. Leslie, my 

dear," she said, ''he has not taken your 

refusal very much to heart." 

'' Oh, do you think so r Miss Amy said in 

a disappointed tone. '' I am sure I made it 

plain enough that I was only amusing myself, 

but he never seemed to see it." 

" But when he found it out no doubt it 



36 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

helped to cure him. My dear Amy, you 
must not be vexed If I say that you ought to 
be more careful about encouraging men for 
the pleasure of refusing them. It's the most 
heartless and unwomanly trick a girl can be 
guilty of." 

" But Fred Leslie was such a donkey, 
aunt !" 

" He Is what you call a donkey, perhaps, 
but I call him a sensible and clever young 
fellow." 

"Then I don't like clever sensible people," 
Miss Amy said, decidedly, as she got up 
and began to examine the set of her skirts 
In a long mirror. " There Is something 
wrong with this drapery," she said, " I know 
there Is. I wonder Rossitur did not notice 
the way It sticks out In one place and 
falls In another; I must show It to her." 
She went to the door and called " Rossitur, 
Rossitur." 

" Coming ma'am," a voice answered from 



THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. '7^'] 

above, and presently the girl who had walked 
with poor Jem Hathaway in the Stillingfort 
woods came into the room, dressed in a neat 
well-cut black gown, and over it a fantastic 
little muslin apron. 

Mrs. Cartwright looked curiously at mis- 
tress and maid as they stood side by side 
before the mirror. "They are not so much 
alike when they are together," she said to 
herself, "and I declare, I think Rossitur is 
by far the handsomer of the two." 

And now it is the 30th of September, and 
on the 2nd of October the magnificent ship, 
the Great Pyramid, is to sail for Bombay 
with the 99th Dragoons on board. There is 
business and bustle afloat and ashore ; the 
last horse has been safely shipped, but the 
baggage is not yet all stowed away. The 
poop of the huge vessel is bright with ladies' 
dresses, there is a buzz of conversation 
mingled with gay laughter, and the sailors 



38 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

are flitting about hither and thither as busy- 
as bees 

A voyage to India now is more Hke a pro- 
longed pic-nic than an actual voyage ; and so 
the men and women felt who were to mxake 
their home on board the Great Pyramid for 
the next few weeks, while those who were 
left behind felt but a passing regret. It was 
such an easy matter to go backwards and 
forwards that it was absurd to grieve over 
the temporary separation. 

Sir John Erskine, Letty, and Aunt Louise 
had arrived from the Chase a couple of days 
before, and taken up their quarters at an 
hotel, and Letty had already explored every 
nook and corner of the big ship, under the 
guidance of her friend Arthur Filmer. The 
girl was wild with delight, and the excitement 
and novelty of the scene ; and she asked so 
many questions that it was fortunate for 
her guide that she rarely waited for an 
answer. 



THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 39 

Sir John was the only one of the party 
who was not in good spirits ; now that the 
moment of parting with his son was so near 
he felt sad and depressed, and unable to 
shake off a vague presentiment of evil. But 
he did his best to seem cheerful, and to laugh 
and talk with the rest, and many times he 
stopped short when he caught himself saying 
to himself, as he looked at John: "Who 
knows ? Perhaps I may never see him 



agam. 



The young man was touched and subdued, 
too ; his father's low spirits infected him, but 
he was determined not to break down. 

" There is one lovely girl on board," he 
said, when they were all at dinner at the 
hotel on the last evening. '' She came from 
London late this afternoon with our Colonel's 
wife, but they went to their cabins at once, 
so I only caught a glimpse of such a pair of 
eyes !" 

"And, by Jove!" said Arthur Filmer, "the 



40 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

maid Is as handsome as the mistress. You 
didn't see her, did you, Jack ?" 

'*No ; but Pottlnger, my man, knows her. 
I asked him if he knew who the young lady 
was who was going out with the Colonel's 
wife, and somehow the fellow gave me to 
understand that the maid came from his part 
of the world, and I have an Idea that she's 
his sweetheart. I don't envy her If she 
marries Pottlnger. He's a queer fish, but a 
capital servant." 

'' And he has deuced good taste If he 
wants to marry that young woman I saw 
looking after the cabin trunks," said Fllmer; 
"she's a regular stunner and no mistake." 

'' Remember, you must tell us all about 
the young lady when you write. Jack," said 
Letty. " But you must not fall In love with 
her, you know, for we all expect you to marry 
Lucy Knollys when you come home." 

" Be quiet, Letty," said her father. ''You 
should not mention names." 



THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 4 1 

" Oh, Arthur knows all about It," said the 
little lady, quite unabashed. " Don't you, 
Arthur?" 

The last evening passed all too quickly. 
The father and son took a quiet stroll 
together after dinner ; Arthur and Letty 
played a game of chess, and Aunt Louise sat 
near, as In duty bound, and fell asleep In her 
chair. By noon next day the last good-byes 
were spoken, and amid the ringing cheers of 
friends and Idle spectators on shore, and the 
strains of " God save the Queen " and '' Auld 
Lang Syne," played alternately by the regi- 
mental band on board, the Great Pyramid 
steamed away from the dockyard jetty. 

As long as the figures of the two young 
men were discernible Aunt Louise and Letty 
waved their handkerchiefs and kissed their 
hands. Sir John strained his eyes after the 
vessel, but somehow she looked all blurred 
and indistinct to him. He felt, too, an un- 
accountable lump In his throat, and It seemed 



42 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

as if it was the face of the lad's mother he 
saw before him. 

Was it really a presentiment ? Was It 
fated that he was not to see his son again — 
poor Conny's boy ? The mist before his 
eyes grew thicker, and then he could no 
longer hide that it was caused by tears. 

He felt as if he must break down when 
Letty touched his arm. " Oh, papa," she 
said, "do take the opera glass and look at 
the pretty girl who is standing beside Jack 
now." 



CHAPTER IV. 

FIRE AND SMOKE. 

" It is the most insolent, the most audacious 

thing I ever heard in all my life." 

It was Sir John Erskine who spoke, and it 

was to the Vicar of Little Centre Bridge — 

Dr. Murray, that he addressed himself. But, 

although he had but one auditor, the majority 

of Sir John's friends and acquaintances in the 

town would have echoed his speech with 

emphasis. 

The occasion, or rather the circumstance, 

that drew it forth was this : The Conserva- 
tive member for the southern division of 
Stoneshire, in which Little Centre Bridge 
was situated, had died suddenly ; Sir John, a 
sound Tory of the old-fashioned type, was 



44 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

asked to stand In the dead man's room ; and, 
after a little demur, he consented. He had 
no great desire for public life, and, above 
all things, he abhorred party strife, but he 
thought It was clearly his duty to come 
forward now. And, besides, It might be a 
good thing to keep the seat warm for young 
John. He might, perhaps, like to step Into 
it when he came home. 

Everyone said there would be no contest — 
that Sir John would have a walk over ; but 
suddenly a rumour began to circulate In the 
town that the Liberals were about to start a 
candidate — an out and out Radical, people 
said — who was prepared to go all lengths, 
and to promise anything and everything In 
order to gain the seat. For a long time Sir 
John scoffed at the Idea that the other side 
really meant to oppose him. He was aware 
that for some years past Liberalism had been 
spreading in the country, and that In Great 
Centre Bridge especially there were several 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 45 

influential people who had deserted the old 
Tory side ; but that he, an Erskine, should 
encounter serious opposition was monstrous. 

It was over three full years since John had 
gone to India with his regiment, and he was 
not yet complaining of the climate or thinking 
of getting leave. On the contrary, India was 
still to him the most delightful place he had 
ever been in, and the three years had passed 
with almost incredible swiftness. At the 
Chase they had, naturally, been slower in 
their flight and less exciting. At their close, 
Sir John perhaps looked a little older, a little 
more bald on the top of his head ; was a little 
slower in his movements, and perhaps a little 
more inclined to drop asleep over a book ; 
but it was in Letty that the greatest alteration 
was visible. The pretty, merry child was 
now a lovely, high-spirited girl — healthy, 
happy, and as light-hearted and full of mis- 
chief as when she was but ten years old. 

She had not been very carefully educated, 



46 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

but then, as she was not specially intellectual, 
what was the use of cramming her her father 
said. She had had, since her brother went 
away, the advantage of masters at Mrs. 
Dysart-Smith's college, and ]\Irs. Smith was 
very proud indeed of the fact that Sir John 
Erskine allowed his daughter to attend select 
classes — she took care that the classes were 
very select — at her establishment. 

The Erskines were almost as sacred in the 
eyes of Mrs. Dysart-Smith as the tooth of 
Buddha is to his devoted followers ; so when 
she heard that Sir John was to be opposed 
by a Radical candidate, she was perfectly 
furious, and she stirred up all the ladies of 
the town into the most vigorous partisanship 
of the Tory side. 

The time seems favourable for a brief des- 
cription of the town of Little Centre Bridge, 
novv- that it is about to be disturbed by the 
turmoil of a contested election ; but it has not 
many peculiarities to distinguish it from other 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 47 

countr}- towns of the same size and impor- 
tance. Perhaps the most notable thing about 
it is the fact that the wide gates, with the 
*' Erskine lion rampant" upon the posts, that 
stood at the end of the long avenue, and shut 
in Sir John's beautiful park, opened upon the 
High Street, and that the picturesque old 
red brick Manor House itself was visible 
from all the principal parts of the town. 

Opposite the entrance gate of the Chase 
was the Parish Church — a beautiful old 
buildinor, coeval with the Manor House, and 
scarcely less reverenced by the inhabitants 
of Little Centre Bridge than the Erskines 
themselves, who. for generations past, had 
had the presentation to the living. 

The High Street was fairly wide and 
imposing, and not unpicturesque from the 
irregularity of the houses. It was plenti- 
fully lined with shops, that put on at certain 
seasons of the year quite the West-End- 
of- London stvle in the dressinor of their 



48 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

windows. There were, besides, numerous 
smaller streets, which were wholly with- 
out the great pretensions of the principal 
thoroughfare. But, notwithstanding their 
rather humble appearance, there were people 
who said that goods of a better class could 
be bought in them than in the more showy- 
establishments. 

Miss Lambton, it was well known, scarcely 
ever shopped in the High Street ; but the 
carriage and horses from the Chase were 
often to be seen at Simpsons', the drapers, 
in Manor Road. To be sure the Post Office 
was in High Street, and she was very often 
there ; but then nothing was sold at the Post 
Office except stationery and the London 
weekly papers. 

At the end of the High Street nearest to 
the Church, stood the Young Ladies' College, 
presided over by Mrs. Dysart- Smith. She 
was a portly and imposing woman, who 
swept up to her pew in church with as 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 49 

majestic an air as If the eyes of Europe were 
upon her ! Even the most ungainly of the 
young ladies under her charge could not fail 
to acquire some dignity of carriage from 
the constant contemplation of Mrs. Dysart- 
Smith's movements ; she was a living lesson 
in deportment, and as she never, so to speak, 
stood at ease, she could be studied every day 
and all day long. 

The Rectory was not where one would 
expect to find it, near the church, but it 
was very near Mrs. Dysart-Smith's college ; 
indeed from the upper windows of that estab- 
lishment it was possible to look over the tall 
hedge that shut out the road, and so right 
down into the Rector's pretty garden. Even 
the peaches could be seen ripening upon the 
south wall, and the cook and the gardener 
detected in a flirtation as they pulled the peas 
for the Rector's dinner. 

Dr. Murray was a bachelor, and the 
gossips of Little Centre Bridge had grown 

VOL. I. E 



50 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

tired of selecting a suitable wife for him. 
They had once started the idea that he was 
in love with Miss Lambton and afraid to pro- 
pose for her. That delusion lasted two years 
or more ; then It was suddenly dropped, and 
the prevailing belief was that the Rector did 
not know his own mind ; and, that being the 
case, how was it possible for anyone to know 
it for him ? 

Dr. Murray was decidedly the most popular 
man In the parish ; not perhaps because he 
was clever; an excellent preacher, and a hard 
worker, but because he was a bachelor. The 
rector of any given parish may be obstinate, 
dogmatic, self-sufficient and ignorant ; he 
may mumble in the desk and roar in the 
pulpit, but. If he Is a bachelor, or a widower, 
his shortcomings will be overlooked. If not 
wholly ignored, by every one of his par- 
ishioners of the better class, if they have 
daughters to marry. 

It has already been stated that the people 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 5 1 

of Little Centre Bridge took a great interest 
in everything directly or indirectly connected 
with the Erskine family ; indeed they were 
considered as much public property as the 
old town pump. But of late the family may 
be said to have distanced the pump, for the 
supply of water yielded by the latter had 
been condemned by the local officers of 
health as unfit for use ; so the handle of the 
pump had been removed by order, and the 
occupation of the pump was gone. 

But no matter what amount of decadence 
moral or physical, a county family may suffer 
from, it cannot be suppressed by any board 
In the world, and It may safely be said that If 
the Erskine family, or any member of it, 
had fallen into evil ways, the interest taken In 
them generally, and In the erring member in 
particular, would have increased rather than 
diminished. Everyone in the town, from the 
highest to the lowest, liked to see Miss 
Lambton borne about the streets lnj^jl^|^^^}^rge,' p ilhi^qu 

LIBRARY 



52 A GAME OF CFIANCE. 

well-appointed barouche, drawn by the hand- 
some dappled greys. The meek little lady 
always looked lost in the big roomy carriage; 
even her little niece Letty, who fidgeted 
about with her back to the horses, and 
knocked her aunt's many parcels down into 
the bottom of the carriage — Miss Lambton 
always had a great deal of shopping to do — 
seemed much bigger and more imposing than 
the grown up woman, who would have been 
more at home in a donkey chair. 

Now that Letty was eighteen, and quite a 
grown up young lady, she had a pretty little 
pony carriage of her own. It was a tiny thing 
drawn by a pair of animals scarcely bigger 
than dogs, and called by their young mistress 
by the ridiculous names of Fire and Smoke. 
Aunt Louise was too nervous to trust herself 
to the little pair ; she preferred the greys and 
the steady old coachman, who had driven her 
for years, and Sir John was too big, he said, 
for the pony carriage ; he had no room for 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 53 

his legs. So Miss Letty drove about alone ; 
sometimes she took the smallest and lightest 
of the grooms with her on the back seat, but, 
as a rule, she went out by herself. '' I want 
to meet with an adventure, if I can," she 
often said, " but Fire and Smoke are much to 
steady to give me an opportunity." 

Letty was very much interested in the 
coming election, and extremely angry with 
the Liberal candidate who had started up to 
oppose her father. When she heard that he 
had actually arrived in Little Centre Bridge, 
and taken rooms at the New Hotel, near the 
railway station — it was not likely that he 
would patronise the Erskine Arms, in the 
High Street — she declared that, by hook or 
by crook, she must see him. 

'' What do Radicals look like, papa r she 
said, when she told him the news of Mr. 
Otway's arrival in the town. '' I want to be 
able to know the man if I happen to meet 
him. Are they always short and fat, or tall 



54 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and thin ? I saw a fat stumpy man, a 
stranger, at the Post Office this morning, and 
I was sure It was Mr. Otway, but they told 
me he was a traveller In the paper line." 

"Dr. Murray says Otway Is a good-looking 
fellow of about thirty," said Sir John, "and a 
barrister In very good practice." 

"Then he Is a gentleman," put In Miss 
Lambton. " I am glad they have not 
brought down a soap boiler or a tallow 
chandler to oppose you, John." 

" I do not see that It makes much differ- 
ence, myself," Sir John answered. " The 
mischief Is In the opposition, not the man."" 

Days passed, but no one at the Chase had 
seen Mr. Otway, although more than enough 
had been heard. He had spoken at public 
meetings In both Great and Little Centre 
Bridge, but, of course, his own followers only 
had been present, and the general Impression 
was that he had disappointed expectation. 
He had not said exactly what people wanted 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 55 

to hear, and he had been very guarded In 
the matter of promises. Letty was as much 
disappointed as anyone ; she had been hoping 
for a fierce attack upon her father, and Mr. 
Otway had not once mentioned his oppo- 
nent's name. 

About two days after the meeting she was 
driving home rather late In the afternoon ; It 
was early spring-time, and the lamps were 
already lighted In the streets, and there were 
a great many people about. There was a 
fresh wind blowing In Letty's face, and It 
gave her a brilliant colour ; she was also a 
little flurried, for Fire and Smoke, who had 
been left standing at a shop door much 
longer than they liked, were rather out of 
temper and inclined to be troublesome. 

Letty, who did not approve of insubordi- 
nation, except In herself, touched them up 
freely with the whip, and, as luck would 
have it, just as she turned them Into High 
Street, they nearly ran Into a German band 



5-6 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

that was braying before the Erskine Arms. 
There was a stampede and some profane 
language. Fire and Smoke got restive, and 
presently Letty found that they had left the 
road and were cleverly backing the little 
carriage up to the plate - glass window of 
Mr. Carat, watchmaker and jeweller. 

"And he is on the Radical side!" she 
thought, as she shut her eyes and waited to 
hear the crash. But no crash was heard, and 
when she looked again she saw that a man 
was leading the ponies out of danger. She 
was so nervous she did not observe him 
very closely, but she thought he was rather 
forward, for, having piloted the little carriage 
into the middle of the street, he quietly 
stepped into it, seated himself beside her, 
took the reins and dashed off at a smart pace, 
saying as he did so, '' It is rather dark ; allow 
me to drive you home." 

He evidently knew who she was, for w^hen 
they reached the big gates opposite the 



FIRE AND SMOKE. 57 

church — they always stood open in the day- 
time — he turned in quite naturally, and 
whipped Fire and Smoke up the long avenue 
in fine style. 

Sir John chanced to be standing on the 
steps smoking. " Hallo, Letty !" he said. 

"Oh, papa!" she cried, jumping out and 
runnine to him. " I have had an adventure 
at last ! Smoke has been so naughty. There 
was a horrid German band, and he backed 
nearly into Mr. Carat's shop, and this — this 
gentleman was kind enough to help me. I 
am so much obliged to you," she added, 
turning to the stranger, who was in the act 
of giving up the ponies and carriage to a 
groom. 

Sir John was not ungrateful, but, at the 
same time, the fellow seemed rather officious. 
Did he expect to be asked to dinner that he 
was standing there? "My daughter is very 
much obliged to you for your timely assis- 
tance, sir," he said, with genuine British 



58 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

frigidity. '' May I ask to whom we have 
the honour of being Indebted .^" 

*' My name Is Otway," the stranger an- 
swered ; and, having spoken, he slightly 
raised his hat and walked away. 

"The Liberal candidate, as I live!" cried 
Sir John. " Now, what am I to do ?" 

And Mr. Otway, who was but a few paces 
off, heard the exclamation, and laughed softly 
to himself " Liberal or Illiberal," he said, 
'' I mean to see that sweet face again." 



CHAPTER V. 

HIS enemy's daughter. 
" I consider it a most unfortunate occur- 
rence," said Sir John, ''most unfortunate in 
every way." Again Dr. Murray, the Rector 
of Little Centre Bridge, was the friend to 
whom he confided his woes. 

"To think," Sir John went on, "that of 
all the men in the world he should be the one 
to help Letty with her ponies. She declares 
now that he saved her life. It is very unfor- 
tunate !" 

" That her life was saved ?" said Dr. 
Murray, slyly. "Come, come, Erskine ; you 
know you would rather lose your election 
than your daughter." 

"But there was no question of lives at all," 



6o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

replied Sir John, who was rather matter-of- 
fact. ''There was no danger; he says so 
himself. It's all that ridiculous child. She 
wants to make him out a hero." 

'' Oh, you have seen him since it happened 
then ?" 

'* I have just been to call upon him. What 
a row there will be in the place when it gets 
out, and it's sure to get out ; everything does 
here. They never gave me peace or rest 
until I promised to call and thank him." Sir 
John had looked in at the Rectory on his way 
back from the New Hotel. " Miss Lambton 
was just as bad as Letty ; they said it would 
look so pointed if I did not call. I don't care 
a rap how it looks, but I do not want to 
behave like a cad because the fellow has 
set up for the county ; and now the 
women want me to be civil to him, and 
that means asking him to dinner ! What 
do you say, Murray? Would you ask him 
to dinner?" 



HIS enemy's daughter. 6 1 

" I think you might venture ; he will 
refuse." 

" I am not so sure of that. He said he 
did not see why our opinions should keep us 
from being friends, and that for his part he 
was opposed in politics to some of his nearest 
relations." 

" He said that!" said Dr. Murray, opening 
his eyes. 

'' And plenty more of the same kind. I 
wish I knew what to do ; the man is a gen- 
tleman, but it will never do for me to get into 
hot water with everyone because he kept 
those confounded ponies from backing into 
Carat's shop. Who are the Otways ? Do 
you know .^" 

''I do not think they are anyone in particu- 
lar. I believe this man's father was a great 
railway-carriage contractor or something of 
that kind ; he did not leave as much money 
behind him as people expected, but still he 
did not die poor. The eldest son went into 



62 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

the army, I think, and this man is a barrister 
in good practice." 

'' Has he a wife?" asked Sir John. *' It 
woukl make things easier if he was a married 
man." 

'' How ?" asked the Rector. " You do not 
want to be^ civil to her, do you ? Oh," as 
an idea struck him, "you are thinking of 
Letty." 

The next thing Dr. Murray heard about 
the matter that so perplexed his friend and 
neiofhbour at the Chase was contained in a 
note from Sir John. It was really an invita- 
tion to dinner, and he was asked to meet Mr. 
Herbert Otway, the Liberal candidate for 
Stoneshire. 

Letty had carried the day, as she generally 
did when her wishes and those of her father 
clashed. She had made up her mind that, in 
spite of political differences and the impend- 
ing election, Otway was to be asked to dinner 
and treated as a friend instead of an enemy, 



HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 63 

and Sir John, after a short struggle, suc- 
cumbed. 

''You must come and see me through it, 
Murray," he wrote. ''You know I dare not 
ask any of my supporters in the county to 
meet him." 

If he hoped to keep the matter secret he 
was disappointed. In the broad day, of 
course — for gentlemen do not make visits of 
ceremony at night — Mr. Otway returned Sir 
John's call the very day after it was made ; 
and as he was turning in at the hospitable, 
open gates, he was seen by no less a person 
than Mrs. Dysart-Smith. She was on her 
way to see little Miss Masham, a maiden 
lady who lived all alone in a little cottage on 
the London Road, outside the town. 

"Quite true — perfectly true, I assure you," 
Mrs. Smith said, as she sipped her tea and 
nodded at Miss Masham. " I saw him pass 
through the gate and walk on towards the 
house. Now, could he have been going to 



64 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

make a call, or was he going to see Sir John 
on business ?" 

** Suppose we send to the Chase and in- 
quire ?" said Miss Masham, In a dry way 
peculiar to her ; and It was a way that per- 
plexed the gossips of Little Centre Bridge 
very n'luch Indeed. 

Mrs. Smith got very red. ''You are so 
matter of fact, dear," she said. 

Mr. Otway did not find Sir John at home, 
but he boldly asked for Miss Lambton, and 
was shown Into Aunt Louise's favourite little 
sitting-room. Letty was with her aunt, and 
the Radical candidate had, at first, only a 
confused sense of a quantity of sweet-scented 
spring flowers, of canaries In cages ; of a 
pretty elderly woman, with soft white lace 
about her head and face, and of the young 
lady whose ponies he had taken In hand In 
the street. He did not know what the ladles 
said or what he replied. 

Surely the girl was the prettiest creature 



HIS enemy's daughter. 65 

he had ever seen. Tall, but scarcely looking 
her height, she was so finely proportioned, 
with a singularly well-shaped head, set on a 
beautiful full throat. She had sunny hair, 
brilliant eyes, a matchless complexion, and a 
smile that brought dimples in its train. Her- 
bert Otway, who called himself a sensible 
elderly man at eight-and-twenty, felt, as he 
looked at her, that his head and his heart 
were both in peril. 

"And she is my enemy's daughter," he 
said to himself. "At least, I suppose Sir 
John is my enemy." 

He spent an agreeable hour with the two 
ladies, but it was Letty who took the chief 
part in the entertainment. Miss Lambton, 
always rather shy, was unusually so in the 
presence of this interloper who had come to 
oppose her brother-in-law, who was never 
opposed by anyone except his daughter. 
And now Letty was chattering away like a 
bird, and Otway listened and followed her 

VOL. I. F 



66 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

about to look at the hyacinths and the 
canaries, and Aunt Louise thought how very 
childish she was, and she was rather sur- 
prised that a full-grown man could be so 
attracted and pleased. 

Had she known it, Otway was simply fas- 
cinated. Never had he heard anything so 
delicious as the soft babble that flowed from 
Letty's pretty mouth. But, allured as he was, 
he kept himself well in hand ; he never lost 
sight of the fact that Sir John Erskine's 
house was the last house in Little Centre 
Bridge he ought to enter as a visitor, and 
Sir John's daughter one of the few women in 
the place with whom he ought to hold no 
familiar intercourse. 

And so it happened that Sir John's fear of 
getting into hot water with his constituents 
was unfounded. Otway sent a courteous 
refusal to the Invitation to dine at the Chase, 
and when he called again he simply left his 
card. No one knew what It cost him to 



HIS enemy's daughter. 67 

refuse and to turn away from the door, but 
he knew It was the right thing to do, and so 
it was done. 

There had been some unprecedented delay 
In the Issuing of the new writ for Stoneshire ; 
In fact the announcement of the sittlnor 

o 

member's death was premature, but now he 
was really dead, and the date of the nomina- 
tion was fixed. Mr. Otway had been busy 
with his canvass, and his followers were 
certain of victory ; the only thing they had to 
complain of was a certain lukewarmness In 
their candidate. The news of his visit to the 
Chase had got wind, and been duly magnified, 
and he was reminded more often than he 
liked that he was tampering with the enemy. 
But although he had not been a second 
time In Miss Lambton's sitting-room, he had 
seen Letty very often. Indeed, It was quite 
remarkable how often he contrived to come 
across Fire and Smoke and their bewitching 
mistress in the streets of the town. A word 



68 A gamp: of chance. 

or two might be exchanged ; perhaps only a 
bow and a smile, and Otway would go about 
his business with his mind full of the bright 
eyes of his political enemy's daughter. 

What would he have said had he known 
the great project that was maturing in her 
foolish little head ? She had actually made 
up her mind to see Mr. Otway and to ask 
him to retire from the contest for Stoneshire. 
A more absurd idea could scarcely have 
entered the girl's mind ; but there it was, 
and she was determined to carry it out. She 
saw that her father was worried and vexed, 
and she thought if only Otway would give 
up his canvass, all the trouble would be over. 

But to carry out her project safely and in 
secret was not so easy ; she could not talk to 
Otway about it in the street, and he never 
came to the Chase. Why should she not ask 
him to come ? But then Aunt Louise, or 
perhaps her father himself, would find out all 
about it, and interfere with her plan and pre- 



HIS enemy's daughter. 69 

vent it from being carried out. Then she 
thought of writing to him ; but she knew 
that she could not express herself fluently on 
paper, and she had, besides, a vague idea 
that Otway might find it more difficult to 
resist a personal appeal than a written one. 

Suddenly it occurred to her, and how bit- 
terly she regretted the impulse when it was 
too late, to go to him. She had not the 
faintest idea that It might be considered a 
bold step for her to take, even by Otway 
himself. She was Miss Erskine, and If she 
wanted to see anyone — even the Liberal 
candidate for Stoneshire — on business, why 
should she not see him ? It was a mere 
matter of business, after all. Accordingly, 
the day but one before the nomination was to 
take place, she ordered the ponies and drove 
aw^ay through the town to the New Hotel, 
which was close to the railway station. It 
was not a part of Little Centre Bridge that she 
knew very well, and it was crowded with coal 



JO A GAME OF CHANCE. 

trucks and waggons, and there were a great 
many rough-looking and idle people about. 

But Fire and Smoke were unusually well 
behaved, and the people made way for the 
dainty little carriage driven by the pretty 
girl ; and, although she was not recognised 
as she would have been in the High Street, 
she created quite a sensation as she drove up 
to the door of the New Hotel. She was not 
nervous, but she felt a little confused when 
she saw a group of men standing at the hotel 
door, talking, laughing and smoking ; a sud- 
den silence fell upon them as the carriage 
stopped — that was satisfactory so far — and, 
also, one or two of them took out their cigars, 
but they all stared and looked surprised. 

Letty felt that the sooner she was under 
cover the better ; so beckoning to a man, who 
looked like a helper in the stables, to stand 
at the ponies' heads, she got out and went 
into the hotel. But it was not empty and 
quiet inside as she hoped ; very unlike indeed 



HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 7 1 

to the hall of the Ersklne Arms. There were 
more men standing about talking and smok- 
ing ; and how they did stare ! She began to 
feel uncomfortable. A waiter came up, and 
nerving herself for the effort, for she felt it 
was an effort now, Letty asked If Mr. Otway 
was in the house. She could not help noticing 
that as she spoke, the men looked at one 
another, and one man actually laughed out- 
right and tried to turn it off with a cough, 
while a second asked, audibly, "Who is she, 
does anyone know ?" 

The waiter replied that Mr. Otway was 
upstairs In his room, and, was It possible ? — 
did he put his hand to his mouth to hide a 
smile ? Letty flushed to the very roots of 
her hair, and drew herself up. She w^as 
afraid she had made a mistake. 

"What name, miss .^" the waiter asked. 

" Never mind my name," she said, " show 
me up," and the next moment she was on the 
stairs, and had left the staring men behind. 



72 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

It seemed to her that she went alonor miles 

o 

of corridors, but, at last, the waiter stopped 
before a door, threw it open with a flourish 
and announced, ''A lady for you, sir." 

Letty passed into a sitting-room and found 
herself face to face with a man she had never 
seen before. 

He was seated at a table, writing, and a 
greater contrast to Otway could scarcely be 
imagined. He was, perhaps, strictly speak- 
ing, a handsomer man, but his good looks 
were of the barber's block type, and he was 
dressed in a flashy suit of plaid garments, the 
like of which Letty had never seen before. 
She halted suddenly when she caught sight 
of him ; the light from the window fell full 
upon her ; the young man at the table got up 
in a great hurry, and uttered the ejacula- 
lation "By Jove," in a loud voice, as he 
advanced to the unexpected visitor. 

Letty had never looked prettier ; a little 
black velvet hat threw a most becoming shade 



HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. J 2> 

Upon her flushed face, and the perfectly-made 
dark-green ulster showed her beautiful figure 
to the greatest advantage ; but the youth in 
the plaid suit had not perception enough to 
detect that, in spite of the equivocal aspect 
of the situation, she was not of his own kind. 

" Fine day, miss !" he said, with what he 
meant to be a killing look. 

*' Is Mr. Otway not here ? I want to see 
him," Letty answered. She tried to speak in 
a dignified and business-like manner, but her 
voice trembled in spite of all her efforts and 
she felt as if she was Qroino: to faint. 

'' Oh, that's the litde Qrame, is it ?" the 
young man said. "We want Otway, do 
we ? Well, he's out for the day, but I'm 
left in charge to see anyone who comes on 
business, you know. But you don't want 
to see him on business, I'm sure. An 
appointment, and he forgot the day. What 
a bloomino^ shame ! If it had been vours 
truly, now ! Who shall I say called, miss ?" 



74 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Letty gave him a look that ought to 
have abashed him, but he was too obtuse 
to notice It, and she was on the point of 
saying, " Tell him Miss Ersklne called," 
when It dawned upon her, foolish as she 
was and Ignorant of the ways of the world 
that she ought not to give her name. In 
turning the matter over In her mind, she 
actually forgot her perplexity for a moment. 
To mention her name would, of course, at 
once reduce this Impertinent creature to his 
proper level, but, then, It might also be 
awkward for her father, or someone. She 
knew now she was In a false position, 
although she scarcely knew how false It was 
and how full of danger. 

But Otway's representative. If Indeed he 
had that post, gave no time for reflection. 
Here was a pretty girl In his chiefs room In 
a public hotel ; she had called to see him 
either by appointment or on chance — which 
was It? But, perhaps — happy thonght— 



HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 75 

Otway had made an appointment without 
intending to keep it, and he had meant the 
temporary occupant of his room to make the 
most of the piece of good luck that had fallen 
ill his way ; and no one had ever been able to 
say of him that he had failed to make the 
most of his opportunities. He pulled up his 
collar ; took a look at himself in the mirror 
over the mantelpiece, gave a smirk at the 
reflection, and advanced to Letty, bent on 
conquest. Almost before she realised that he 
was so close to her, his arm was round her 
waist, but what happened mtxt she scarcely 
knew ; she struggled to escape with all her 
mio^ht, but he would not let her oo ; then she 
heard rapid steps coming along the corridor, 
the door was dashed open, and Otway stood 
on the threshold. 

*' You here, Miss ?" and there he 

stopped. Letty remembered afterwards that 
he did not mention her name. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 

But the sudden pause did not strike her at 
the moment, for she all but fainted, and, as 
she lay in a state of half-consciousness on the 
sofa to which Otway half-led and half-sup- 
ported her, she heard the sound of his voice 
as he spoke angrily to the man who had 
Insulted her. What the one said and the 
other replied she did not know. He had 
saved her by his timely arrival from further 
contact with that vulgar, insolent creature ; 
but she was not yet out of the scrape she 
had got herself into by her thoughtlessness. 
Presently she heard the door of the room 
open and close ; she knew that she and 
Otway were alone, and never In the course 



THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER, ']^ 

of her short hfe had she felt so small or so 
ashamed. Was the man laughing at her, or 
pitying her, or did he think she had gone out 
of her mind ? She glanced at him shyly ; he 
looked very grave, or, as the silly girl put it, 
cross. Now, no one was ever cross with her, 
no matter how naughty she was ; and, al- 
though in her heart she knew she had been 
guilty of the most foolish act she had, up to 
the present, been guilty of, she did not want 
to be looked at as if she were a criminal. So 
her red lips began to quiver ; her eyes brimmed 
over with big tears, and Otway was instantly 
vanquished ! He went to her, took her little 
handkerchief from the breast pocket of her 
ulster, wiped aw^ay the tears that were running 
down her soft, round cheeks, and whispered, 
" Oh, please, don't cry. It was all my 
fault." 

But of course she sobbed the more. " I 
came — I came — to — to ask you not — not to 
go on with — with the election ; and you 



*jZ A GAME OF CHANCE. 

weren't here, and that dreadful man 
frightened me so." 

Otway did not know what she meant by 
wanting him not to go on with the election, 
but he did know that he was desperately, 
madly, in love with her, and that if he did 
not keep a firm hand upon himself he must 
betray what he felt. 

" How am I to get away?" she whispered, 
presently. " Are all those horrid men still in 
the hall .^" 

The question of getting her away was the 
very one that was perplexing Otway at the 
moment — or that would have perplexed him 
If he had not been fighting a hard battle with 
the passion that was struggling for utterance ; 
and every glance from Letty's lovely, tear- 
washed eyes made the victory less easy to 
win. At last he resolutely turned his own 
eyes from her face, and calmness came back 
to him in a measure, as he began to walk up 
and down the room. 



THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 79 

*' How did you come ?" he said, at last, and 
his voice was as matter of fact as if he had 
been addressing a constituent. 

''I drove the ponies. Did you not see the 
carriage at the door ?" 

" No ; it wasn't there. Perhaps someone 
was driving the ponies about. You brought 
a groom, I suppose .^" 

'' No ; I told a man in the street to hold 
their heads." 

" Oh ; it's all right then. What would 
you like to do ?" He was back again at her 
side, but he had himself well in hand now, 
and felt that he might venture upon the 
luxury of looking at her. He knew she 
ought to go at once ; that every moment she 
stayed added to the difficulties of the situa- 
tion, but he longed to detain her just a few 
minutes more, in order that he might hear 
why she had come. "You are a little shaken 
still," he said. '* May I not get you a glass 
•of wine ?" 



8o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

'' Oh, no, no, thank you ! I really must go 

now ; but I want to tell you oh, don't 

you want to know, Mr. Otway, why I came 
to see you ?" 

'' I want to know very much," he said, 
smiling. '* It Is a great honour, and I cannot 
tell you how grieved I am that I happened 
to be out when you came. It was very, very 
unfortunate, too, that young Brandon, who Is 
acting as a sort of secretary to me just now, 
chanced to be here ; but I made It all right 
with him. He does not know who you are." 

'' But he can find out. Everyone knows 
the ponies !" cried Letty. " I told him I 
came to see you on business ; but he did not 
seem to understand. You know I came on 
business, don't you, Mr. Otway ? What else 
should I have come for ?" 

" I am quite sure It was on business you 
came," he answered, gravely. 

" But you think I ought not to have come 
even for that I" she cried, petulantly. ''I 



THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 51 

never thought of anything but my business. 
There was nothing else to think of; at least 
there was nothing until all those horrid men 
stared at me In the hall !" 

"And will you not tell me the business 
now.'^" Otway said, quietly. " Sit down for 
just five minutes and tell me all about It from 
the beorlnnlno^. You want me to do some- 
thing for you." 

He made her sit down again, and placed 
himself beside her, but he kept his eyes fixed 
upon the buttons of her ulster, or upon the 
little hands folded together on her lap ; any- 
where except on her face. He could not 
trust himself to look at the sweet rosy mouth 
and the brilliant eyes. 

" I came to ask you," she began, and she 
heaved a great sigh as she spoke, " not to go 
on with the election, if you wouldn't mind. 
I am afraid It is a great deal to ask, but isn't 
there some other place you could be a mem- 
ber of parliament for ? A place that a per- 
VOL. I. ^ 



82 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

son like papa did not want to be a member 
for, too ?" 

''In short, you want your father to be the 
member — you do not want me at all. I may 
go back to London, and no one In Stoneshire 
or Centre Bridge will care a brass button If 
they never hear of me again !" 

" I should care ever so much more than a 
brass button," replied Letty, ''for I should 
say to myself every day that you were the 
kindest and most good-natured man I ever 
met. 

"You would say that every day, regularly?" 
said Otway. " I think you would get tired." 

" No, I am sure I shouldn't." 

"And you think that would repay me for 
giving up the election ?" he went on. " I am 
afraid I should want something more — from 
you." For half a second he laid his fingers 
lightly on the little, gloved hand, and looked 
for about the same time Into her eyes, tiers 
did not fall. 



THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IX DANGER. S^ 

'' From me?" she repeated. " But I have 
nothing of my own to give you, except the 
ponies." 

" I do not want the ponies, thank you," he 
said. " Neither can I promise all at once to 
give up the election. I do not care so very 
much about it myself, but 1 have promised 
other people who have been working for me, 
you know." 

" But they would all vote for papa if you 
were gone," said Letty. "And then you 
know," she added, *'you could be such good 
friends with all of us at the Chase, if you 
were not the Liberal candidate ; you could 
come and see the canaries again, and I would 
sing for you, and " 

"You would?" cried Otway. ''Oh, Miss 

Erskine— Letty Hallo! What is all 

this going on outside ?" 

The window of the room overlooked the 
street. Otway went to it and glanced out for 
a moment, half-relieved and half-vexed at 



84 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

the sudden Interruption. Another second 
and words Impossible to recall, and, under 
the circumstances, dishonourable to utter, 
would have fallen from him. 

When he came back to her, Otway was 
looking very grave. " Your father has just 
ridden up," he said, " and recognised the 
ponies." 

Something in the speaker's tone struck the 
girl. " Is he — Is he angry ?" she said. 
" What had I better do ?" 

" He may be surprised ; there Is nothing 
to make him angry. Shall I " 

Before the sentence was finished. Sir 
John's voice was heard In the corridor, and 
it seemed as If he were speaking loudly with 
a purpose. '* I know Miss Erskine is ex- 
pecting me," they heard him say, "what 
number Is it ?" 

The next moment he was In the room, and 
the door was shut behind him. His face 
was livid with passion, and his eyes were 



THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 85 

ablaze. But it was not at his face Letty 
looked. She saw only the riding -whip so 
firmly grasped in his right hand. 

" Papa ! papa !" she cried, and caught hold 
of his arrn. 

But he pushed her from him. "You — 
you infernal scoundrel !" he exclaimed. Be- 
fore Otway was aware of his intention, Sir 
John had him by the collar, and, if the up- 
raised arm had not been deftly caught by the 
young man, a stinging cut from the whip 
would have fallen on him between the 
shoulders. 

" If you were not her father," he said, as 
he wrenched himself free, " I'd knock you 
down where you stand." 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE NOMINATION. 

*' I KNOW I made a fool of myself," said Sir 
John, " but what would you have a man do 
when he finds his daughter tete-a-tete with a 
fellow he knows nothing about ? I am sure 
you w^ould have horse-whipped him." 

'' Not until I had asked him a question or 
two," said the Rector. 

To Dr. Murray, as usual, Sir John had 
confided his troubles ; they were rather 
serious on this occasion, and poor Sir John 
was walking up and down the Rector's study 
with a rueful expression on his ruddy face. 
" I suppose it is all over the place," he said 
at last. 

" Yes ; I am afraid there is a good deal of 



THE NOMINATION. ^J 

gossip, as usual, and many different versions 
of the affair. One is that you belaboured 
him to such an extent that he was carried 
fainting to bed ; another, that you and he 
fought it out there and then, and that you 
are unpresentable with a black eye ; a third, 
that you found him at the railway station 
about to elope with Letty." 

"Oh, confound it; that is the worst of 
all !" cried Sir John. 

"And that you kicked him from one end 
of the platform to the other." 

Sir John threw up his hands. "What is 
to be done ?" he said. 

" I think you and Letty and Mr. Otway 
had better be seen together in public as soon 
as possible. To-morrow is the nomination ; 
take her with you, and shake hands with 
Otway before everyone." 

" But what will our side say if they see me 
fraternising with the Liberal candidate .^" 

" Very true," said the Rector. " And it is 



SS A GAME OF CHANCE. 

the gossips here we want to silence. In all 
probability the Great Centre Bridge people 
will not hear of the affair. Suppose you just 
take no notice. What matter what people 
say ?" 

'• But I am afraid poor Letty will be talked 
about." 

'* She must live it down, too. And now, 
would you mind telling me what she went to 
Otway's rooms for ?" 

" She went to ask him, if you please, to 
resign — to give up the election and allow 
me to have a walk-over. Did you ever hear 
of such a thing ? But he is a gentleman, 
Murray, and no mistake about it. He 
behaved so well ; made me understand, as 
soon as I had the sense to listen, how it all 
came about — -and if Letty had been the 
Princess Royal he could not have been more 
deferential — more anxious to smooth over her 
absurd indiscretion. By Jove," and Sir John 
broke into a little nervous laugh, " I am 



THE NOMINATION. 89 

afraid the fellow has fallen In love with the 
child." 

''Oh, never mind that," said the Rector, 
*'as long as she does not take a fancy to 
him." 

''But you never can tell ; girls are so 
queer. She can't but see the way he looks 
at her. It is very different from the way he 
looks at me." 

" I dare say," said the Rector. 

"And isn't it an odd thing ?" Sir John went 
on, "I told you Jack had been writing a 
great deal lately about some Gordons he 
knows out there in India. Miss Gordon 
went out in the Great Pyramid, under the 
care of Jack's Colonel's wife, and now he has 
come across her again. Letty and Miss 
Lambton say they think he is in love with 
this Miss Gordon, but I think not. He 
knows I want him to come home and marry 
Lucy Knollys by and by. Well, where was 
I ? You know Otway's name was mentioned 



90 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

a long time ago as a possible candidate If 
poor old Mllner died, and I told Jack about 
him, of course. Now he writes word that 
Otway's elder brother married the half-sister 
of this Amy Gordon, and I should like to 
ask him about them. If only we were friendly 
enough. Jack says Colonel Gordon told him 
that Herbert Otway — that's our man — was- 
was one of the best fellows he ever met." 

" All the same, I wish he had gone to 
Great Centre Bridge Instead of settling him- 
self here," said the Rector. 

''I suppose, then, the best thing I can do 
is to show myself with Letty." Sir John said, 
as he took up his hat. " She Is so ashamed, 
poor child, that I cannot scold her ; and the 
best of It Is," he added, slyly, "she fancies 
our friend Otway thinks she Is a silly little 
fool, and I would not undeceive her for the 
world." 

Dr. ]\Iurray had said truly enough that 
half-a-dozen versions of the affair at the hotel 



THE NOMINATION. 9 1 

were current in the little town. As a matter 
of fact, it had ended peacefully. Sir John, 
his bit of bluster over, listened to his 
daughter's explanation ; he and Otway shook 
hands, and the latter had the pleasure of 
handing Miss Erskine into her little carriage. 
She scarcely looked at him. however ; she 
was grateful to him for having helped her to 
explain everything to her father, but she did 
not want to see him again. Sir John had 
some difficulty in persuading her to accom- 
pany him and Miss Lambton to Great Centre 
Bridge on the day of the nomination. It 
was very galling to her to be present, for, of 
course, if Otway had retired from the contest^ 
the fact would have been known by that time, 
and so she had beo^Q^ed in vain. 

Still she was but young, and her spirits 
rose and her face erew briofht as usual, as 
they all drove up to the town hall, and were 
greeted with loud cheers by their friends and 
adherents. The dappled greys had the Con- 



92 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

servatlve colours streaming from their heads ; 
the coachman and footman wore big rosettes, 
and Aunt Louise and Letty were suitably 
decorated. There was such a dense crowd 
in the wide square or market-place before the 
town hall that the carriage had some difficulty 
in drawing up. A platform had been erected 
for the speakers, with a flight of steps at 
either end, and rival bands were stationed at 
■opposite sides of the square. The players 
had ranged themselves and their music stands 
round poles, from which flags showing the 
party colours floated in the wind. 

A group of men stood on the steps of the 
entrance to the town hall under an awning, 
and amongst them Letty recognised Otway. 
She would not have been a woman had she 
not been struck by the contrast he presented 
to some of his companions. For one thing 
he was remarkably well-dressed ; not in the 
dark tweed suit and deer-stalker hat in which 
he appeared at Little Centre Bridge, but in 



THE NOMINATION. 93 

the well-made frock coat and tall hat which 
are considered indispensable for a man on 
ceremonious occasions. The hat was taken 
right off the dark curly head of the good- 
looking Liberal candidate, as soon as he saw 
the carriage from the Chase, and he stood 
bare-headed as Sir John helped the ladies to 
alight. 

Sir John knew nearly all the men who 
were on the steps. They were political foes, 
to be sure, but, for all that, he shook hands 
right and left, and in the most marked 
and ostentatious manner with his opponent. 
When the action was noticed by the crowd 
it was received with mingled cheers and 
hisses, and the Conservative band struck up 
"See the Conquering Hero." 

" Premature that, eh ?" said Sir John, 
laughing, and addressing no one in par- 
ticular. 

Letty did not look at Otway. Miss 
Lambton gave him a timid little bow, and 



94 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

as he put on his hat again and watched the 
girl walking away with her father he was 
foolish enough to feel bitterly disappointed. 

There were not many ladies present ; the 
Avife of Otway's proposer and some young 
girls belonging to the seconder were the only 
women on the Liberal side of the platform, 
but a little group of county ladies surrounded 
Miss Lambton and Letty. It was some time 
before the business of the day began. Men 
came up on the platform and went down 
again ; the bands played, the crowd jeered 
or cheered as friends or opponents were seen 
passing to and fro, there was some rough 
horseplay, and cries of " Bonnet him," '' Turn 
him out," and every fresh outburst of cheers 
or groans was louder and less good-humoured 
than the last. By the time the candidates 
and their friends appeared in front of the 
platform the mob had become decidedly rest- 
less and ripe for mischief. 

The preliminaries were, however, gone 



THE NOMINATION. 95 

through without any serious interruption 
from below, but, when Sir John came forward 
to make his speech, and had just cleared his 
throat and uttered the words " Friends and 

electors of ," a well-directed rotten Qgg 

struck him on the cheek and cut him short. 
And then a curious thing happened. Mr. 
Otway rose, and, leaning over the front of 
the platform, called out, *' Don't let us have 
any more of that, if you please." But even 
as he said the words he was obliged to duck 
his head to avoid a dead cat. 

He could not account for the impulse that 
made him look at Letty Erskine as the un- 
savoury missile fell at his feet. Her face was 
all aoflow with excitement, and her lovelv 
eyes were fixed on him. What was it that 
eaeer look was saving ? He fancied she was 
mutely reproaching him for not having, as 
she had asked, retired from the contest. He 
glanced at her again, but her eyes were turned 
awav. 



96 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Sir John spoke for half-an-hour, but the 
fates were against him, and scarcely a word 
he said could be heard ; his friends in the 
crowd were evidently in a minority. Con- 
fident of a better reception, and half-angry 
that it should be accorded to him, Otway 
came forward. The uproar was at its height, 
but curiosity had the effect of creating 
silence for a little while. It did not last long; 
something in the speaker's manner caused the 
first note of dissatisfaction, and he was 
assailed with rude cries of '' Shut up," '' Who 
are you ?" and such like ; for, instead of 
of expounding his political views, he began 
by attacking his own friends for their want of 
courtesy and fair play towards the rival" 
candidate. 

His proposer at last whispered, ''What 

the are you about, man ? They won't 

stand being lectured." 

But Otway's blood was up, or some other 
impulse may have moved him, for he went 



THE NOMINATION. 97 

on In the same strain. But the patience of 
his friends was soon exhausted, and he was 
silenced by a perfect storm of hisses and cat- 
calls, while rotten eggs fairly rained on the 
platform. 

Otway's friends and his own got round Sir 
John to Implore him to demand a hearing for 
his opponent, and he at once came forward 
and tried to make himself heard ; but his 
appearance was the signal for a sudden turn 
of the tide. A shout of execration greeted 
him, and the eggs flew faster than before. 
Some roughs from Little Centre Bridge, who 
had more than once been brought up before 
Sir John In his capacity as a magistrate, had 
pushed themselves to the front, and it was 
from them the foulest language came. But 
he never changed countenance until a bigger 
bully than the rest called out, "What was 
Miss Letty doing In the New Hotel with 
Billy Brandon ? Just tell us that, Sir John, 
will ye ?" 

VOL. I. H 



98 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Otway gave one look round to see if Letty 
had heard ; her face was very white now, and 
she had risen as if to go to her father. 
Catching her eyes for a moment, the young 
man waved her back ; then, putting his hands 
on the bar that formed the top of the raihng 
in front of the platform, he vaulted over into 
the roadway below, and just as the ruffian 
was about to repeat his insulting question, 
Otway knocked him down with one well- 
planted blow. 

Before the yelling crowd quite realised 
what had happened, friends and opponents 
together rushed from the platform to Otway's 
assistance, and not a moment too soon ! 
Maddened by the fall of their comrade, the 
roughs closed in upon him, and attack and 
defence became general. Some hard knocks 
had been given and received, when a strong 
body of police and military came upon the 
scene, and a regular stampede ensued. 

When it was all over, and one or two 



THE NOMINATION. 99 

arrests had been made, Otway was found 
leaning against the door of the hall with 
blood flowing from a cut upon his temple and 
his right arm hanging by his side. 

*' I am afraid It Is badly broken," he said, 
and so It was. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE TALK OF THE TOWN. 

The local gossip caused by the numerous 
versions in circulation about Letty Erskine's 
visit to Otway at the New Hotel was extin- 
guished as effectually as a lighted candle is 
put out by a sudden puff of wind, when the 
events of the nomination day in Great Centre 
Bridge became known. There was no need 
for exaggeration in this instance ; what had 
actually taken place was bad enough. But 
even the news of the rioting and the free 
fight, which brought the business to an 
abrupt close, paled before the amazing fact 
that Otway, the Liberal candidate, with his 
head cut and bleeding and his arm badly 
broken in two places, was taken, first to the 



THE TALK OF THE TOWN. lOI 

house of Dr. INIannering, Sir John Ersklne's 
own medical attendant In Great Centre 
Bridge, where his wounds w^ere dressed and 
his bones set, and then. Sir John's carriage 
being still used for the purpose, conveyed 
to the Chase, and established there with a 
professional nurse, while Miss Lambton and 
her niece went home in a hired fly. It was 
true that Otway had been badly hurt while 
defending Sir John from the roughs, but still, 
was it any wonder people looked at one 
another and asked, " What next ?" 

So much was known to everyone, but no 
one knew how Otway had protested against 
the arrangement ; vehemently at first, but 
more feebly as Sir John insisted. He gave 
in at last, not because he felt less strongly, 
but his physical strength deserted him and 
he was Incapable of continuing the struggle 
when he was at length helped Into the car- 
riage with his bandages and splints In order. 

The Chase was the last house he ought to 



I02 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

have entered under the circumstances ; he 
was Sir John's poHtical opponent ; he was in 
love with Sir John's daughter, and honour 
and honesty ahke forbade him to take up his 
abode under Sir John's roof. And yet, there 
was a certain amount of satisfaction in the 
knowledge that he was all but helpless in the 
matter ; he had entered his protest, and had 
been silenced ; so if anything happened, Sir 
John must take the consequences. But 
nothing would happen ; he was bound in 
honour not to make love to Miss Erskine. 
But as he lay feverish and restless in the 
pretty bedroom which, with a sitting-room 
attached, had been given up for his sole use, 
he took all at once a great resolve. It was 
not yet too late to do as she had asked him, 
and withdraw from the contest for Stoneshire. 
It was quite possible that he was not treating 
his friends very well by retiring at the last 
moment, but he could very well bear their 
anger and ill-will. So he sent for Sir John, 



THE TALK OF THE TOWN. IO3 

who would not listen to him at first ; but 
Otway had so thoroughly made up his mind 
that he had to give in. Then letters, tele- 
grams and messages passed between the 
Chase and the Liberal committee rooms in 
Great Centre Bridge, there was much angry 
remonstrance, and a few uncomplimentary 
expletives were directed against the man who 
had thus played fast and loose with his party, 
but Otway had his way ; he was determined 
to withdraw from the contest, and withdraw 
he did on the very eve of the election. 
There was no time to hnd another candidate, 
and Sir John Erskine was returned without 
opposition. 

Lying there on his sick bed, for excitement 
and worrv made him feverish and li^ht-headed 
for some days, Otway knew nothing of the 
storm of indio^nation his conduct had raised. 
The comments passed upon him in the 
Liberal papers were the reverse of compli- 
mentary, and it was pretty plainly hinted that 



I04 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

''petticoat influence" had been at work. One 
very scurrilous "leader" in the Centre Bridge 
Banner of Freedom said openly that " no 
bribery was as potent as that practised by a 
pair of bright eyes, and no corruption more 
demoralising than the smile of rosy lips." A 
kind friend sent a copy of the paper with the 
above passage underlined to Sir John, but he 
put it into the fire, and carefully avoided the 
subject with Letty, who was under the im- 
pression that Otway had been obliged to 
resign on account of his broken arm. 

About a fortnight after the memorable 
nomination day, Mrs. Dysart-Smith gave 
one of her select luncheon parties, and Dr. 
Murray was, as usual, one of the guests. 
Her only daughter. Miss Ethel Dysart- 
Smith, had been for some time past designed 
by her mother for the post of mistress of the 
pretty Rectory, but, for some unaccountable 
reason. Dr. Murray did not propose to the 
young lady, and he was, moreover, much too 



THE TALK OF THE TO\YN. I05 

attentive to Mrs. Smith's English governess, 
Mary Hamilton, in whom neither the mother 
nor the daughter could see anything to 
admire. She had a sweet oval face, lovely 
soft brown eyes, and a figure that w^as simply 
the perfection of symmetry and grace. But 
it was not to be borne that the Rector's eyes 
should have rested on her with admiration, 
especially when Ethel was present. 

Miss Hamilton never appeared at the 
luncheon parties, but she occasionally spent a 
leisure afternoon with the kindly maiden lady 
Miss Masham, of whom mention has already 
been made, and it was strange how very often 
Dr. Murray happened to drop in to tea 
when the young lady was there. As he was 
on his way to this special luncheon, Dr. 
Murray happened to meet Miss Hamilton on 
her way to the post. A few words only 
were exchanged but they w^ere enough to 
bring a pretty colour into the too pale 
face, and to make Mary very absent indeed 



I06 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

about the number of postage-stamps she 
required. 

'' Now, Dr. Murray," said Mrs. Dysart- 
Smith, as soon as she saw that her guests 
were beginning to enjoy their luncheon, 
" what Is the latest news from the Chase? 
Is that man ever going to get well and take 
himself off? I never knew a broken arm so 
hard to mend before." 

"It was a bad compound fracture," said 
Dr. Sumner. " At least, so I understood. 
Personally, I know nothing about the case." 

" I met Dr. Mannering yesterday," said 
Mrs. Verity — her husband, the lawyer, was 
not present — "and he told me Mr. Otway 
was recovering very fast now ; he was moved 
into a sitting-room yesterday." 

"Yes; I called at the Chase yesterday," 
said Mrs. Sumner, "and It was some time 
before Miss Lambton came In. Miss Letty 
told me she was in Mr. Otway's room, seeing 
that everything was comfortable for him." 



THE TALK OF THE TOWN. lO/ 

" Letty was not overseeing his comfort, 
too, then ?" said Mrs. Dysart-Smlth. 

" Oh, dear, no ; she has not seen him since 
the accident, she says. She was telhng me 
about her brother In India, and, from what I 
can gather, he Is very far gone about some 
young lady out there. I forget her name ; 
Amy something. What will Sir John say If 
he does not come home and marry Lucy 
Knollys ? Young John gave a very amusing 
account of some private theatricals they had 
at some place, and It seems this young lady's 
maid, I forget her name too, took a principal 
part and played so extremely well that 
bouquets were thrown to her and everyone 
was delighted. Depend upon it, the next 
news will be that young John Is going to 
marry this Miss Amy— Gordon. That Is the 
name." 

Dr. Murray was eating his luncheon 
silently. He had already heard the Indian 
news from Sir John. 



I08 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

"Have you seen ^Ir. Otway, doctor?" 
Mrs. Dysart-Smlth addressed him direcdy 
again. "And do you think he is in love 
with Letty ?" 

" I cannot presume to say," the doctor 
answered. " He has not confided in me." 

"If there is nothing between them it is 
most extraordinary. Why did she go to his 
rooms, and why is Sir John so civil to him ?" 
said Mrs. \^erity. "Depend upon it, there is 
more in it than meets the eye. You know 
they say she used to meet him in the park 
every evening, and he used to send a young 
man he employed as secretary with notes and 
messao-es." 

" I am quite sure you are mistaken, Mrs. 
Verity," said Dr. Murray. " Miss Erskine 
is not the sort of girl to do things of that 
kind ; and, besides, I happen to know that 
she went to the hotel to ask Mr. Otway to 
give up the election. It was a foolish thing 
to do, but there w^as no harm in it." 



THE TALK OF THE TOV.W. IO9 

"He need never think of setting up for 
Stoneshire again," said Dr. Sumner. 

"And I think." said Mrs. Smith, laughing, 
"the best thing Sir John can do is to let 
Letty marry him as soon as he is well. I 
am sorry to say a great many things are 
being said of her that would grieve me very 
much if they were said of ??iy daughter. 
Not that I believe them, of course, but 

still Dr. Murray, you are not touching 

your favourite claret. I never give that 
wine to anyone but you. It is Ethel's pet 
brand, you must know, but I always say, 
' Xo, my dear, we must keep that wine for 
Dr. Murray.' By the way, my dear Ethel, 
do not fororet to show the Rector that 
exquisite design you have for an altar 
cloth." 

That same afternoon, at the Chase, Otway. 
with his arm in a sling, was resting in an 
easy chair that kind Miss Lambton had 
arranged for him. close to a window which 



no A GAME OF CHANCE. 

commanded a wide view of the park and 
overlooked, besides, the Ladies' Garden, as it 
was called. It was bright now with spring 
flowers, and once that day he had seen Letty 
herself, the sweetest flower of all, in his eyes, 
racing about over the grass, with her fox- 
terrier, Orion, in full chase. He had been 
introduced to that wonderful dog on the 
occasion of his visit of ceremony, and he 
felt inclined to envy the little animal on that 
bright spring day. Once or twice he fancied, 
but he could not be sure, that the girl looked 
towards the window of his room, but when 
he got up and placed himself at it in the 
hope that she would wave him a greeting, 
he was disappointed ; she did not look up 
again. 

The day wore on ; he read until he was 
weary, and then, in a somewhat fretful and 
impatient mood, he threw himself on the 
couch to try and doze away the rest of 
the long afternoon, but presently the door 



THE TALK OF THE TOWN. I I I 

opened and Miss Lambton came in. She 

was followed by a servant who carried a tea 

tray, and after the servant who should trot 

in, with his nose in the air, but the handsome 

Orion ? 

Otway jumped up, his head at once in a 

whirl, and his curly locks decidedly untidy. 

But he never thought of his hair, he was 

filled with a delightful hope. Was she 

coming ? Was he to see her again ; to touch 

her hand ; to look into her face ? Yes, he 

was. Orion rushed back to the door to meet 

her, and she came in without a sign of flurry 

or excitement in her manner ; she wore a 

bewitchino: tea-Q^own of some soft cream- 
er o 

coloured stuff, trimmed with ribbons of red- 
dish brown and pale apricot, and she carried 
some flowers. 

" Letty and I are going to have tea with 
you, Mr. Otway, if you don't mind," said 
Miss Lambton. 

*' And Orion too, aunt. Don't forget 



J 12 A GAME OF CHANCE. 



Orion, please," said Letty's clear, unem- 
barrassed voice. " How do you do, Mr. 
Otway .^" she added and gave him her hand. 



CHAPTER IX. 

AN ADVENTURE. 

Orion, the fox-terrier, did good service that 
afternoon ; it was so easy to steer clear of 
such a disagreeable topic as the election, and 
to become chatty and friendly over his good 
looks and accomplishments ; not that he had 
many accomplishments, for he was much 
too petted, and was not forced to spend too 
much time over his lessons, but his young 
mistress made the most of what he could do. 
His rdpertoire consisted of a few very common 
tricks, and he did them very badly, but 
Otway was prepared to swear, if necessary, 
that he had never seen such a clever dog 
before. 

Letty was not in the least imposed upon, 

VOL. I. I 



114 ^ GAME OF CHANCE. 

but she allowed the invalid to believe that she 
accepted his lavish praises of her pet In good 
faith. She could not help feeling very sorry 
for the poor fellow who was so pale and 
gaunt, but rather picturesque, too, she 
thought, with his arm In a sling. Letty felt 
it was her duty to be kind to this man who 
had defended her father so bravely, and as 
she always did her duty fairly well when it 
did not Interfere with her pleasure, she was 
very kind to him that afternoon. In her way, 
but It was a childish and provoking way. 
Did Otway find any fault with it ? Not he, 
indeed ; he was only too happy to be taken 
any kind of notice of by the girl who had 
never, for one moment, been out of his 
thoughts for the last month or more. 

He did not care whether she talked sense 
or nonsense — and it was fortunate he was not 
particular, for It must be confessed she gave 
him plenty of the latter — as long as he could 
look at her and watch the dimples coming 



AN ADVENTURE. T I 5 

and going, and hear the ripple of her frank, 
merry laugh, and catch the mischievous 
glance of her lovely eyes. 

No one who had ever seen Herbert Otway 
at his work would have recognised him 
that afternoon. Love had transformed him 
more than pain and illness. Even his most 
intimate friends called him cold and impas- 
sive ; a man not easily^mcved, and not given 
to express or even to feel enthusiasm. And 
yet now he was the abject slave of a 
girl of eighteen ; enthusiastic enough in all 
conscience about her beauty ; hanging on 
her words ; in the seventh heaven of delight 
when she gave him a kind look, and absurdly 
jealous when she lavished attentions and 
caresses on her dog. 

And was Miss Letty blind to all this ; was 
she ignorant of the damage she had done ? 
By no means ; she saw it all only too dis- 
tinctly, and exulted over it as any spoiled girl 
of her age would have done. But she was not 



Il6 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

disposed to fall In love In her turn, although 
she liked Otway, and said he was a "delight- 
ful man " for having given up the election ; 
but then he could not have gone on with It 
with a broken arm, and If he had gone on 
she supposed, he could not have stayed at the 
Chase until he was well again, so everything 
had turned out for the best. That was the 
way she reasoned. 

But It was absurd of him, when everything 
had ended so nicely, to look so lackadaisical 
before her, and to stammer and stutter when 
he could talk so well, and to gaze at her as If 
he were never to see her again ; and indeed, 
had he but known It, Otway was not taking 
the right way to Impress Letty, and to touch 
her heart. She did not want a slave, she 
wanted a master ; and a little neglect and In- 
difference would have won her more effectu- 
ally than all his deference of speech and 
ill-suppressed devotion of manner. 

" But it was all very nice," Letty said to 



AN ADVENTURE. I 1 7 

herself, as she laughed in secret over Otway's 
words and looks ; and as he was " making 
such a goose of himself" he must submit to 
be teased. By and by, when he got back to 
London, he would "get over it." 

But, as the days wore on and the afternoon 
tea was repeated in Otway's room until he 
was able to come downstairs to the pretty 
boudoir, with the flowers and the canaries, 
Letty began to think that, when he was back 
in London, she should miss her captive — the 
first who had fallen to her bow and spear ! 
Every day she liked him better, and every 
day she wished he would pluck up a spirit 
and not allow her to turn him round her 
finger, as she was in the habit of doing. 

'' I believe I should fall desperately in love 
if I were but a little afraid of him," she said 
to herself many times, "but I cannot care 
much for a man who never finds fault with 
anything I say or do." 

But there was no one to ofive him a hint, 



Il8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

SO he went on day after day metaphorically 
prostrating himself before her, and enjoying, 
with the keen zest of hunger, the few crumbs 
of kindness she threw him now and then. 

When he was quite recovered, she walked 
with him In the park and drove him about In 
the pony carriage ; but, although his oppor- 
tunities were legion, he never dared to speak 
openly of his devotion. He saw, but too 
plainly, that she did not love him as he 
wanted to be loved. "Would it ever come?" 
he wondered. "Should he ever have the 
happiness of seeing her shy and subdued In 
his presence ? Would those lovely, saucy 
eyes ever droop before his, and the laughing 
lips be still ?" 

He was quite well now, and he had no 
excuse for lingering on In the country, but 
still he stayed. Sir John had taken his seat 
in the House, and had then paired with a 
member on the other side until after Easter, 
which fell rather late that year. When Par- 



AN ADVENTURE. II9 

liament re-assembled after the recess, It was 
arranged that Letty and Miss Lambton were 
to go to town for a few weeks. 

At the beginning of April, Otway was 
obliged to tear himself away, but to his great 
satisfaction and delight, hospitable Sir John 
Invited him down to spend Easter at the 
Chase. He showed his delight In the eager- 
ness of his acceptance, and he did not guess 
that the very slightest show of reluctance or 
hesitation on his part would have Increased 
tenfold Letty's appreciation of his promised 
visit. 

As It was she simply put up her lip dis- 
dainfully as she told Orion that the man who 
thought him such a very clever dog was 
coming again In a fortnight, and that he 
ought to learn a new trick. 

But when he was gone she missed him 
sadly ; there was no one now to fetch and 
carry for her, and to rush about hither and 
thither to gratify all her whims and fancies. 



I20 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

No one except her father — and he did not 
count — to look admiringly at her when she 
appeared In a new gown or hat, and above 
all, there was no one to listen to all her silly 
chatter as deferentially as if she were uttering 
choice words of wisdom. 

During the fortnight he was away several 
large packets of new music arrived from 
town addressed to Miss Ersklne ; also an 
extremely pretty, but very unsuitable, collar 
for Orion. Then came a thick letter for 
Miss Lambton to thank her and Sir John 
for their great, their never-to-be-forgotten 
and wholly undeserved kindness to the 
writer. He could say with truth that the 
very happiest hours of his life had been spent 
at the Chase, and the pleasure with which 
he was looking forward to his return visit at 
Easter was too great for words, but he con- 
trived to spend a great many upon it, never- 
theless. The chief part of the letter, how- 
ever, was taken up with messages to Letty — 



AN ADVENTURE. I 2 I 

" Pray tell Miss Erskine that I have ordered 
the song she wished for," or " Miss Erskine 
may depend upon me to find the kind of 
forehead band and rosettes she is anxious to 
get for Eire and Smoke, if they are to be had 
in London," or '' Let Miss Erskine know 
that I have got the riding-whip she was good 
enough to commission me to procure for 
her." 

" I w^onder how he is going to behave this 
time ?" she said, as she buttoned herself into 
a most becoming new, tailor-made gown, and 
put on an equally becoming little hat, on the 
day Otway was expected. AVhen she was 
dressed she called Orion to accompany her 
and started to take the short cut across the 
park which led to the railway station. She 
had given Otway an indefinite promise — or, 
more truly, a conditional one — that on the day 
of his return for his Easter visit, she and 
Orion would meet him at a certain stile on 
the outskirts of the park well known to both 



122 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

of them, and walk back with him to the 
house ; but he was not to be disappointed, 
she explained, If she was not at the stile, for 
she might change her mind, or forget all 
about It. When she said she might forget, 
Otway looked so dejected and prayed so hard 
that he might be honoured by her company 
that she laughed In his face, and said he had 
done nothing to deserve the honour ; but 
when he went on to confess his unworthiness 
she lost all patience, and flippantly told him 
not to expect her until he saw her. 

And now, though she was actually on her 
way to the trysting-place, she had almost 
made up her mind to turn back before the 
train arrived. '' But if he looks too pleased 
to see me," she said to herself, '' I can 
revenge myself by snubbing him all the 
evening." 

She had a book with her, and when she 
came within sight of the stile she sat down 
on the stump of a tree to wait, for the train 



AN ADVENTURE. I 23 

was not due for nearly half-an-hour. She 
was in the shelter of a small but thick copse 
of beechwood, and in the distance she could 
see the signal posts on the railway line, and 
hear now and then the whistle of a local 
train. 

Orion was very happy sniffing about for 
rabbits, and Letty. with her open book on 
her lap, leaned against a tree, and began to 
devise some new modes of torment for the 
expected guest. The only thing, she made 
up her mind, that she would not give him 
was encouragement. She had very early 
been impressed with the idea by good Miss 
Lambton that it was dishonourable for a 
woman to lead on a man to make a declara- 
tion of love and then to reject him. But 
still, in spite of her excellent resolution, 
Letty was longing to hear what he would 
say and to see how he would look, if he were 
to ask her to marry him. 

'' He would spoil me dreadfully if I said 



124 ^"^ GAME OF CHANCE. 

■"yes ;' I know he would," she thought, " and 
I am sure, although It would be very nice, It 
would be very bad for me always to have my 
own way. Mrs. Herbert Otway — Letty 
Otway — they sound rather pretty, but I do 
not think I want to be married just yet. Be 
quiet, Orion ! What Is It, good doggie ?" 

Orion was barking furiously, and presently, 
to Letty's surprise, a man emerged from a 
side path among the trees and came towards 
her. She rose at once, called the dog to 
her side, and stood looking at the Intruder. 
Where had she seen that face before, and 
that plaid suit, and scarlet necktie? The 
face of the wearer was scarlet too, and that 
puzzled her, for the person of whom he re- 
minded her had not had that flaming visage. 
His hat was worn raklshly and his gait was 
a little unsteady. Yes ; there was no doubt 
about It, It was unsteady, and as It suddenly 
flashed across her where she had seen him 
before, she knew that he was tipsy, and that 



AN ADVENTURE. I 25 

his condition made the difference in his 
appearance. He was the man who was in 
Otway's room at the New Hotel — the man 
called Brandon, who had so utterly mistaken 
the object of her visit to the young and good- 
looking Liberal candidate. 

Brandon was not very tipsy, for he spoke 
quite distinctly, but she did not like his look 
or his manner. 

''Morning, miss," he said familiarly, as he 
made a bungling effort to take off his hat. 
" Hope I see you well, miss. You look 
uncommon fit, I must say." 

Letty was silent for a moment, then she 
said, in a freezing voice, " Perhaps you are 
not aware that you are trespassing. People 
are not allowed to walk here." 

" Indeed ! Beg pardon, miss, but I have 
an object ; I am not trespassing. I was on 
my way to the house to see you, miss, when 
I caught sight of you and the dawg " — he 
drawled out the word in true Cockney fashion 



126 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

— "and I followed to have a word with you 
in private." 

'' I cannot speak to you," said Letty. ''If 
you have any business you should go to Sir 
John." 

He was close beside her by that time, so 
close that she had to move a step backwards 
to avoid contact with him. He moved on, 
too. " I'm down on my luck, miss, if you 
know what that is," he went on. " I didn't 
know who you was that day at the hotel, or 
I'd have been less free and easy, but you 
don't bear malice, I hope ; and, seeing you 
there alone, I thought you was fair game for 
a lark, if you'll excuse me." 

Letty was crimson with anger and mortifi- 
cation, and she tried to walk quickly on in the 
direction of the house, but Brandon contrived 
to keep in her path. " I used to do some 
writing for Mr. Otway," he continued, '' but 
he sent me to the right about after that day, 
with a tenner in my pocket, which I took to 



AX ADVENTURE. I 27 

mean. * Hold your tongue about the young 
lady,' and the half- tipsy creature put his 
finger to his nose, and, to Letty's horror and 
disgust, winked at her. " And never a word 
said I, honour bright, as long as the coin 
lasted." 

" What is your business with me ?'' inter- 
rupted Letty, haughtily. " I do not believe 
you have any." 

** Oh, yes, I have," he said ; " maybe you 
don't know how folks are talking of you and 
that swell chap from London. They say you 
bought the election for your father, pretty 
dear, but that if the old gent will only come 
down with a lot of cash, you'll be Mrs. Otway 
safe enough, by and by !" 

Now, the greater part of this speech was 
unintelligible to Letiy, but nevertheless, it 
was offensive in the highest degree. " How 
dare you speak to me in that way ?"' she said, 
stamping her foot. 

*' I can silence ever\* tongue in the place. 



128 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and I will, too," Brandon went on, quickly, 
''if you'll give me five sovs. I'm cleaned 
out, that's the truth. I want to get back to 
London, too, and I haven't the price of a 
ticket. Just five, miss, and not a word more 
about anything. I can square everyone for 
that, and get to town besides." 

Letty put her hand into her pocket and 
took out her purse ; she had plenty of money, 
and five sovereigns was a small price, she 
thought, to pay for silencing the slanderers, 
and she never suspected that Brandon had 
made up the tale. She had turned and was 
walking at a good pace back to the house ; 
Brandon was close beside her, talking eagerly 
as he walked. She took the pieces of gold 
from her purse, and, without turning her 
head, placed them in his eager hand and 
hastened on ; but the sound of hurrying foot- 
steps and a sudden scuffle made her pause 
and look round, to see Otway in full chase 
after the frying figure of Brandon. 



AN ADVENTURE. I 29 

The race was a short one ; Brandon was 
not sober enough to keep up the pace, and 
presently Letty saw him being dragged to 
her by his captor, and frightened and vexed 
though she was, she all but laughed out at 
the comical figure he cut, with his hat on one 
side and his gaudy necktie pulled awry by 
Otway's grasp upon his collar. 

" I saw Miss Erskine give you money, 
you miserable cur!" cried Otway. "How 
dare you speak to her, sir ? Give it up 
instantly or I'll hand you over to the 
police !" 

Brandon sullenly held out his hand with 
the money in it to Letty. ''There — take 
it," he said, ''but I'm starving. I haven't a 
copper ; not one !" 

Then Letty looked at Otway, and in her 
eyes he saw soft appeal and womanly pity. 
" Let him keep it," she said, gently, and the 
next moment Brandon, the five sovereigns 
safe in his pocket and his tongue in his 

VOL. I. K 



I ^o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

cheek, was hurrying away as fast as his legs 
would carry him, and Otway and Letty were 
left alone. 



CHAPTER X. 

OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 

When she found herself standing face to 
face with Otway, whose name had been so 
freely and offensively used by her late half- 
tipsy tormentor, Miss Erskine suddenly and 
unaccountably lost her temper. Otway was 
annoyed beyond measure that Brandon should 
have obtruded himself and got money out of 
her ; but, at the same time, he was so over- 
joyed to find himself once more in her 
presence that he would not let himself think 
of the impertinent rascal who was already 
out of sight. 

He was also excited by the knowledge 
that she had come to meet him after all. As 
he was whirled along from London In the 



132 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

express he kept telling himself that she 
would not come, that he must not expect 
her ; and yet she must actually have been on 
her way to the stile when that fellow inter- 
cepted her. 

" It was so good — so kind of you," he 
said, breaking the awkward silence and hold- 
ing out his hand. 

" What was good of me ?" she said, and 
she pretended not to see the hand. " I wish 
I hadn't been so foolish." 

His face fell. '' I do not call it foolish," he 
said. 

''Then you are very inconsistent," she 
retorted, " and if you do not call it foolish, 
why did you make him give back the 
money ?" 

" I was not thinking of the money," he 
said. " I meant that it was kind of you to 
come and meet me." 

'' Oh," and she tossed her pretty head. " I 
was just thinking of going back to the house 



OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 33 

when that man came up. I came out for a 
walk ; I never meant to go to the stile. 
Why did you listen to me and allow him to 
keep the money ?" she went on, pettishly. 
*' You must have known that I was silly to 
ask you. A man like you ought to know 
better than to give in to a girl." 

That was Otway's own belief as regarded 
girls in general, but to this special girl who 
had bewitched him by her beauty and her 
pretty ways, he could refuse nothing. 

''You think so?" he said, gazing at her 
with that worshipping look in his eyes which 
liattered, while it provoked her. "All I 
know is that I could not refuse you anything." 

"Then I must say you are very silly," she 
said, decidedly, and she walked away from 
him. " That man will make a very bad use 
of that money." 

" He is quite welcome," said Otway. " I 
am afraid I do not care very much what 
happens to him, but I do want to know what 



134 A GAI^IE OF CHANCE. 

he said to you. I hope he was not very im- 
pertinent ?" 

Not for worlds would Letty repeat Bran- 
don's words ; some instinct told her that they 
were very impertinent, although she did not 
quite understand them. ''He said he was 
hungry, and that he wanted to get back to 
London," she explained. 

'' He did not try to frighten you, then ?" 

"Oh, dear, no," said Letty, ''but I hope 
he will eo to London now ; I do not want to 
have him prowling about here." 

" I am afraid he was insolent to you," said 
Otway, with injudicious solicitude in his voice 
and manner, ''you were looking quite pale 
when I came up." 

" Oh, dear ! I wish you would not w^atch 
one so. It is very disagreeable," was the 
snappish rejoinder. " I really must beg of 
you, Mr. Otway, not to notice whether I 
am pale or red." She began to walk on 
very fast as soon as she had delivered that 



OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 35 

crushing rebuke, but he was beside her in a 
moment. 

'' I cannot help looking at you," he said, 
quite humbly. "It is the only pleasure I 
have when you are so unkind to me." 

She o-ave her shoulders a little shrug, and 
turned her head away that he might not see 
she was laughing. " He is too absurd," she 
said to herself. Then she walked on, hum- 
ming a gay little tune, and not a word did 
she vouchsafe to the patient slave at her side. 

" I hope Miss Lambton and Sir John are 
quite well," he said, at last. 

" Quite well, thank you," and she hummed 

on. 

''And I hope you have good news from 

India." 

" Very good." 

'' And how are Fire and Smoke ?" 

'^Very well indeed. They tried to run 
away with me last week." 

''Good heavens! I hope you were not 



136 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

alone. Were you frightened ? You terrify 



me. 



'' Oh, not In the least ; it was great fun." 
She hummed away at her song and took no 
notice of his anxiety. The pretty profile was 
all he could see, for she never once turned 
the eyes he was pining to look Into towards 
him. Was the walk he had been looking 
forward to ever since he went to town really 
to end In this way ? 

At last a fallen tree in a tempting position 
came Into view. Miss Letty sat down, and 
Otway meekly placed himself beside her. 
There was silence for a few minutes, then she 
said, suddenly, " I am sorry I was so cross," 
and held out her hand. 

It was ungloved, white, soft and pretty. 
He took it eagerly, and, in a tender but half- 
irresolute manner, raised it to his lips. 

" You should not do that," she said, as she 
tried to draw it away, but he would not let it 

go- 



*' I may as well tell you now as a week 
hence," he said, and his voice was husky with 
emotion. " I love you. Letty. I love you 
with my whole heart." 

" I am very sorry to hear it," she answered 
promptly, and with an irresistible smile 
curving her lips. " We were such good 
friends, and everything was so nice and 
pleasant. Oh, how can you be so foolish ?" 

" Do not mock me in that cruel way," he 
cried. " I was half- afraid you would not be 
kind to me, but you must not blame me for 
what I cannot help. I can no more help 
loving you than the sun can help shining. I 
am not vain enough to suppose that you care 
for me, Letty ; but let me love you, and by 
and by perhaps I may teach you " 

She broke into a merry laugh. " Xo one 
could ever teach me anything," she said, 
" especially if I did not choose to learn, and 
in this instance I do not choose. I do not 
want a lover ; it is so ridiculous when I think 



138 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

that about a year ago I had a doll. I am 
sure when you think over It seriously, Mr. 
Otway, you will be very glad I did not listen 
to you." 

'' Glad !" he repeated. '* Glad, when I 
would give the world, if I had it, to know 
that you even thought kindly of me. I love 
you so dearly, so devotedly, there is nothing 
I would not give up to please you — to try 
and win you." 

" That is exactly what men say in books, 
but I do not think it means much," she 
answered, calmly. "We girls are very nice, 
of course, and I suppose men cannot help 
falling in love with us, but to talk of giving 
up the whole world for us is simply ridiculous. 
It really means nothing, if you think of it." 

" I mean everything by it," he answered, 
''but I can see you do not love me, or you 
would not laugh at me ; yet, for all that, I 
am sure I could make you happy if you 
would be my wife." 



OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 39 

" You would give me my own way in 
everything, I suppose," she said. '' Let me 
do exactly as I liked ?" 

"It would be the study of my life to please 
you in every way — to anticipate, if possible, 
your every wish. I am glad to say I am 
in a position to surround you with as much 
comfort and luxury as you enjoy in your 
father's house ; and in addition, my darling, 
you would have the devotion of a heart that 
has never known love for any woman before." 

She looked at him with her frank eyes, 
unabashed as usual. " Indeed," she said, 
gravely, " I am not sure that it is such a 
great recommendation to a heart after all. 
I should not care if you had been in love 
a dozen times. It must be rather stupid to 
have no experience." 

"You like making fun of me," he said, 
" but I do not find fault if only I may love 
you." 

" There is no law against it, that I know 



140 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

of." she answered, "but you must not expect 
anything. I am very much obhged to you, 
Mr. Otway ; very much indeed. I feel quite 
proud that I have had my first offer of 
marriage ; but I am quite satisfied with the 
spoiHng I get at home from papa and Aunt 
Louise. Yours would be very nice, too, 
perhaps, but still I might not like it as well ; 
and then, you see, it would be very shabby of 
me, would it not ? — to take everything and 
give nothing in return." 

'' You would give me yourself !" he cried, 
*' and your sweet companionship in my lonely 
life." 

" Oh ! I am not much of a companion, I 
assure you," interrupted Letty, "you would 
have to spend the most of your time amusing 
me, and giving me new gowns, and taking me 
to the theatres. If I lived in London with a 
stranger like you I should want so much 
amusement. It would not be like home, you 
know." 



OTWAV MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. I4I 

^' Home !" he repeated. " Oh, Letty ! It 
would be Paradise to me with you." 

''Very Hkely," she answered, ''but I must 
think of myself. But do not let us talk any 
more about it, if you please. I had no idea 
you were foolish enough to fall in love, and 
the sooner you get over it the better." 

"You do not know what you are saying," 
he interrupted, mournfully. " You have 
grown to be part of my very life. It is not 
love I feel for you — it is worship — idolatry ; 
see," and kneeling at her feet he stooped and 
kissed the hem of her gown. 

She rose in a great hurry, blushing all 
over her face, and very nearly knocked him 
over. 

"I am surprised, Mr. Otway," she ex- 
claimed; " and— and— vexed. Do get up. 
There is Orion staring at you, and no 
wonder. I do not like to see a man on his 
knees, and you will find that green mossy 
earth very hard to brush off You should 



142 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

have spread your handkerchief, as the old 
men do in the free seats at church." 

" I should not mind kneeling there for a 
month if I could hope to win you at the end 
of it," he said. 

She gave him a half-compassionate, half- 
contemptuous look. ''You will never win 
me by kneeling to me," she muttered. 

" I beg your pardon. Did you speak?" he 
said. 

" No," she answered, crossly, " I did not 
speak ; and I am not going to speak any 
more. I am going home." 

And not another word was exchanged 
between them until they reached the house. 
Otway looked sadly dejected. Letty's cheeks 
were on fire, and her heart was beating 
wildly. After all, although he was so foolish 
and so unmanned in her presence, he was 
ardently in love, and that in itself was a 
dangerous attraction ; an idea to fall in love 
with if she could not love the lover. 



OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 43 

In the hall they met Miss Lambton. ''Oh, 
how do you do, Mr. Otway ? Very pleased 
to see you back again. Will you excuse Sir 
John for a few minutes ? He wants Letty in 
the library. Will you go to him, dear ? The 
Indian mail is in." 



CHAPTER XL 

THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 

Letty disappeared not altogether sorry to 
escape for a time. Otway pulled himself 
together with an effort and followed his 
hostess into the morning-room. ''Sir John 
has not had any bad news, I hope," he said, 
politely. He saw that Miss Lambton was 
excited and nervous, and not much in the 
mood for the entertainment of guests. 

" Oh, no ; not bad, really," she answered, 
as she seated herself and tried to look at her 
ease, "indeed most people would call it good, 
I think — very good ; but my brother-in-law 
Is just a little bit put out and disappointed, 
I think. It is rather unexpected, certainly ; 
at least Letty and I thought we might hear 



THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 45 

something before long, but Sir John always 
said it was nonsense, just because he did not 
quite like it, you know." 

"I suppose," said Otway, ''I am not wrong 
in thinking that the news has something to 
do with Mr. Erskine — your nephew — Miss 
Erskine's brother.^" 

"With Jack?" said Miss Lambton, "you 
are quite right ; it is all about Jack. There 
is no reason why you should not know. He 
writes to say that he is engaged to be married 
to that Miss Gordon ; have you heard of her.-^ 
I forget. The dear boy is very much in 
love and very happy, but somehow I can't 
take it all in. It would be just the same if 
Letty were engaged ; I could not take it 
in." 

" You told me when I was here before that 
your nephew was very much smitten with 
Miss Gordon, and I mentioned, if you re- 
member, that she was a sort of connection of 
mine. Her half-sister married my only 

VOL. I. L 



146 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

brother. I never met Amy Gordon, but I 
believe she Is very charming." 

'' So Jack says, of course. How odd that 
you should know anything about her. I 
think it will please Sir John, as he likes you. 
I suppose you met Letty and walked home 
with her ? I am very glad you were able to 
run down this week ; you will talk to Sir 
John, and In a day or two he will be quite 
reconciled to Jack's engagement. I want 
him to write a nice letter to the dear boy by 
the next mail." 

Letty found her father waiting for her with 
his son's letter In his hand. ''What is it, 
papa ?" she said ; "a letter from Jack ? Is he 
coming home ?" 

" No ; he's not coming home, but he's 
going to be married " 

''To Amy Gordon!" cried Letty. "Oh, 
I knew he would. Aunt Louise and I always 
said he was In love with her. What does he 
say ? Has he sent her photograph ?" 



THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 47 

" No, the young idiot says no photograph 
does her justice. Here is the letter," and Sir 
John began to read: '"Mv dear Father and 
Everyone, — I have only a few minutes to 
save the mail, but I must send you a line 
to tell you that I am the happiest man in the 
world. I am engaged to Amy Gordon, and 
we are to be married very soon. She is, 
without any exception, the most beautiful 
and the sweetest, dearest, darling in the 
world.' Did anyone ever hear such bosh ?" 
put in Sir John. " ' I know she loves me, 
and I would give the whole world if I had it, 
for her sake.' " "I suppose they all say that," 
murmured Letty, blushing as she remem- 
bered Ot way's declaration of half- an -hour 
ago. '' * You must all write to her, and tell 
her how pleased you are ; I have already 
told her all about the dear old home, and 
she sends her love and a sweet kiss to you 
all.' There," said Sir John, ''what do you 
think of that for rubbish ? Stay, there is a 



148 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

P.S. : ' We are going to — to ' I can't read 

the name, 'for our honeymoon — Amy and I, 
and her maid, Rossitur. I have not made 
up my mind whether I Hke that same maid 
or not, but Amy says she is a treasure, so 
it's all right.' " 

*' Well, papa," said Letty, "what do you 
say : 

"What do I say? What is the use of 
saying anything now ? The rascal has taken 
the law into his own hands, and we must 
make the best of it. I wanted him to marry 
Lucy Knollys, but if this girl is nice, 
and a lady, there is no great objection, I 
suppose." 

"And if they care for one another," put in 
Letty. 

" Oh, Jack seems pretty hard hit ; and of 
course she likes him, too, or I suppose she 
would not marry him." 

" Do women ever marry men they are not 
In love w^ith?" asked Letty. She was fiddling 



THE NEWS FROM I1\DIA. 1 49 

nervously with a paper-knife, and Otway's 
passionate pleading was ringing in her ears. 

" Well, I don't know\ I suppose they 
do sometimes," said Sir John, doubtfully. 
'' Poor women, unfortunately, have very 
often to marry for a home ; but I think a 
w^oman might get fond of a man after she 
married him." 

" I am sure I should hate him if I did not 
love him very much before," said Letty, 
decidedly, " especially if he w^ere very fond 
of me and did not order me about. I could 
not endure a man who was always on his 
knees adoring me." 

*' Order you about !" cried Sir John, laugh- 
ing. '' I should like to see the man who 
would order you about, you little tyrant. I 
never venture to do it." 

" But a husband and a father are different, 
you know," said Letty. " Quite different." 

'' When did you find that out, you mon- 
key ?" and Sir John took his daughter's 



150 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

pretty chin between his finger and thumb and 
turned her face towards him. " Hallo, what 
does this mean .^" as the deep red colour rose 
again. "What are you asking about hus- 
bands for, I should like to know .^" 

'' Mr. Otway wants me to marry him," 
answered Letty, speaking very fast. " I met 
him in the beech wood as he was coming 
from the train, and he asked me." 

" And what did you say ?" 

" I believe 1 laughed at him. He was 
very silly and sentimental." 

" Then you don't care for him ?" 

'' I do not think I do. I hate the way he 
goes on — as if I were something too good for 
this world. He is so sensible and manly and 
clever until he begins to talk about love." 

"And what happens then?" asked Sir 
John. 

" He becomes perfectly idiotic," answered 
Letty, calmly. " I know I am very pretty 
and lively, and I might, perhaps, make a nice 



THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 15I 

wife ; but when a man goes down on his 
knees and sees no fault in me I call him very 
stupid." 

Sir John burst out laughing. '' Poor 
Otway !" he said. '* He has no chance, I 
see." 

" Not unless he gives up all that nonsense, 
and behaves like a man, not a goose," said 
Letty. 

" Where is he now .^" asked Sir John. 
*' Did you leave him lamenting in the beech 
wood ?" 

" Oh, dear, no ; we came home together, 
and he is with Aunt Louise, I suppose. 
Please, daddy," and she wound her arms 
round her father's neck and laid her pretty 
cheek against his ruddy one, ''don't pretend 
that you know anything about it ; and if he 
talks to you, you must not tell him that I 
should like him better if — if " 

" If he liked you less. Is that it .^" 

"Oh, no, certainly not. I like to be liked, 



152 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

but I think a man is weak who goes on his 
knees to a woman." 

''In short, you prefer a commander to a 
beggar. Is that It? Well, I am not going 
to tell him what to do, my darling, for I do 
not want to lose my daughter just yet." 

" But he may change of his own accord," 
said Letty, saucily. "And now, daddy, you 
go and tell him all about Jack, and if he 
asks for me, say you do not know where I 
am." 

Aunt Louise slipped away as soon as her 
brother-in-law came in ; she wanted to talk 
to Letty about the Indian news. 

''Well, Otway, my boy," said Sir John, 
heartily. " Glad to see you again. I have 
just heard from my son In India; he is 
engaged to be married. By the way, I think 
you know something of the lady. Never saw 
her, eh ? Well, Jack raves enough about her 
beauty and her goodness ; but of course, she 
is perfection in his eyes. Your sister-in-law 



THE NEWS FROM INDIA, 1 53 

is her sister-in-law — is that it ? No, her 
step-sister — same father ? Jack hasn't sent 
her photograph ; says she comes out badly. 
Pretty women generally do. I never saw a 
photo of Letty that was fit to look at. She 
met you coming from the train, she says. 
She had a fright the other day, soon after you 
left us, with those confounded ponies. They 
tried to bolt." 

"Why not get rid of them ?" said Otway, 
anxiously. " I am sure it is not safe for Miss 
Erskine to drive them, and " 

As he was speaking, Letty came in. 
" Scandal about my ponies. I heard you, 
sir !" she cried, and she shook her finger 
threateningly at the infatuated Otway, who 
the moment she appeared assumed the 
vacuous expression of the longing lover. 

'' I came to look for Aunt Louise's keys," 
Letty went on. " No, thank you," as Otway 
came forward to join in the search. " Men 
never can find anything, I notice. Please sit 



154 -^ GAME OF CHA^XE. 

down and talk to papa. There, now ; you 
very nearly upset that little table, and you 
frightened the bird. You see how she is 
fluttering, and it is very bad for her to 
flutter ; she is supposed to have heart disease. 
Do be quiet and stand on the hearthrug out 
of sight." 

Otway obeyed like a dog, and Letty con- 
tinued her hunt for the lost keys and smiled 
to herself in contempt at his obedience. " I 
could not marry a man who did exactly as he 
was told," she thought. 

Presently the keys were found under an 
open book on one of the sofas. " There," 
she said, " I knew I should find them if I 
were let alone." She gave Otway a look 
from under her long lashes as she left the 
room and shook the keys at him. "If that 
poor bird dies," she said, ''it will be all your 
fault." 

The two men stood side by side for a few- 
moments in silence ; then Otway put his 



THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 55 

hand upon his host's shoulder, and said 
earnestly, ''Will you give her to me, Sir 
John?" 



CHAPTER XII. 

MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 

At the moment Otway was asking this 
momentous question, Mary Hamilton — Mrs. 
Dysart-Smlth's pretty EngHsh governess — 
was alone In one of the class-rooms of the 
young ladles' college. She was seated at a 
writing-table ; her elbows were on the table, 
and her chin was supported on her hands. 
A finished letter In Its addressed envelope 
was beside her, writing materials were 
spread out before her, but she was absorbed 
in thought. 

Not half-an-hour before she had received 
her dismissal from Mrs. Smith, on the pretext 
that her supervision of her pupils was too lax 
during play hours. A long consultation had 



MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 57 

been held between the lady principal and her 
daughter just before Mary's discipline was 
called in question and her services dispensed 
with, and if she had known that such a con- 
sultation had taken place, it w^ould have given 
her the clue she looked for in vain as she sat 
with her elbow^s on the table and her pen and 
paper before her. 

She was convinced in her own mind that 
Mrs. Smith had not given the real reason of 
her abrupt dismissal, and she w^as naturally 
not a little vexed at being treated in such a 
curt and unkind manner. She put down her 
elbows and scribbled off a note w^hich she 
addressed to '' Miss Masham, The Rosary, 
Little Centre Bridge ;" then she got up and 
began to walk up and down the room. No 
matter how courageous and self-reliant a 
woman may be, she does not like to be 
turned adrift at a moment's notice without 
sufficient reason, and before long Mary 
began to feel angry as w^ell as perplexed. 



158 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" What does it mean ? What does It 
mean ?" she said to herself as she again sat 
down and began to scribble hieroglyphics 
over her blotting paper. By degrees the 
motion of her restless hand grew slower ; 
the colour on her face, which was flushed, 
deepened from rose pink to deep crimson. 
It was only April, and the weather was by no 
means warm, but Mary felt suddenly as if 
she were stifling. '' It must be that," she 
said. "He was certainly more careful to 
keep the rain off me than off her. I wish I 
had walked home alone." Then she jumped 
up. feeling hotter than before, and put her 
writing materials away in a drawer. ''What 
a fool I am," she said, as she took up her 
letters and went upstairs to her own room. 

It was at the top of the house, and it was 
not very large ; but it was a front room, and 
from the window there was an excellent view 
of the Rectory and the Rectory garden. Other 
windows in the college commanded the same 



MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 59 

view, but Mary's was the best of all. And It 
was such a charming garden, too, w^ith Its 
gnarled apple trees and stately pear trees, its 
walls covered with peaches and nectarines, its 
row of beehives at the further end, and such 
quantities of sweet old-fashioned flowers, that 
even a busy housemaid in Mrs. Smith's em- 
ploy might be pardoned for lingering long at 
a window just to look at it. 

And it may as w^ell be confessed that Mary 
Hamilton never went to her room without 
taking a peep into this modern Paradise. 
She was much too high up to be noticed by 
anyone who happened to be In the garden, 
so she could admire to her heart's content 
without fear of detection. Her cheeks were 
very pink still, uncomfortably hot, in fact ; 
her very ears burned as she stood at the 
open window^ and looked out. And what 
did she see over the way that made the 
colour get deeper and deeper still ? 

In the very middle of the garden there 



l6o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

was a fine old apple tree, and directly under 
it, gazing up into its branches, stood the 
Rector, Dr. Murray, without his hat. He 
was a tall handsome man of about forty-five 
or fifty. His clothes were always well made, 
and there was always a very snowy line of 
linen above his high waistcoat. Altogether, 
he was a man worth looking at. His back 
was turned to Mary, and she could see dis- 
tinctly a tiny bald place on the top of his 
head. Clearly the doctors hair was begin- 
ning to come off. 

Much time, however, was not vouchsafed 
to Mary for the contemplation of this phe- 
nomenon, for Dr. Murray suddenly put on his 
hat — he had simply taken it off to prevent it 
from fallino^ off when he threw back his head 
to look in to the apple tree — and walked away. 
She saw no more of him, and she did not 
know that he went straight out of the garden 
into the street, turning in the direction of the 
church, which stood, as has been already 



MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. l6l 

mentioned, in the middle of the High Street, 
about fifty yards beyond the Post Office ; and 
the Post Office was next door to Crump's, the 
fancy shop par excellence of Little Centre 
Bridge. 

In five minutes after she lost sight of the 
Rector, Mary went out to post her letters, but 
she turned into Crump's, which came first, to 
buy some knitting-cotton. She spent about 
ten minutes over the purchase, then went 
on to the Post Office to get stamps for her 
letters, and there saw Dr. Murray writing a 
telegram. 

Mary started. It seemed but ^v^ minutes 
since she had seen him staring up into his 
apple tree. She could not exactly turn and 
fly, although some unaccountable impulse 
urged her to do so ; besides, why should she.'* 
He had as much right to be in the Post Office 
sendinor off a teleQ^ram as she had to be there 
buying stamps, so she stood meekly behind, 
waiting until he made way for her. 

VOL. L M 



1 62 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Even very stupid people know sometimes 
by instinct when they are in the way, or 
when someone whom they know and would 
like to speak to stands behind them. Dr. 
Murray was the reverse of stupid, so he not 
only immediately became conscious that he 
was in the way, but that someone whom he 
knew and liked was behind him, and he had 
the curiosity to turn his head to see who It 
was. 

And It was not a very remarkable object 
by any means. He saw a pretty, neat little 
figure, in a grey gown and a black jacket, and 
a sweet face with shy soft eyes and very pink 
cheeks. The Rector had never seen them as 
pink before. He did not say a word, but he 
shortened his telegram by at least three 
words ; then, giving the paper and a shilling 
to the clerk, he turned and shook hands with 
Mary. 

'' I have not seen you since the concert, 
Miss Hamilton," he said. " I hope you did 



MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 63 

not catch cold? It was too bad of the rain 
to come on just then, and I did not find 
it easy to shelter two ladies under one 
umbrella." 

'' I got no cold, thank you," said Mary, 
''but Miss Smith has a sore throat. She 
says the drip from the umbrella went down 
her neck." She might have added, ''And 
that same drip has cost me my place." 

" Dear, dear, how very unfortunate. I am 
very sorry. She ought to have gone with 
her mother in the fly. I suppose I must buy 
a larger umbrella before the next concert." 

Mary, who was stamping her letters, made 
no remark. 

" Where are you going now ?" he asked, as, 
having followed Mary out of the office, he 
saw her drop her letters into the box. 

" Home — to the college," she answered, 
and, all unknown to herself, she gave a little 
sigh as she held out her hand to her com- 
panion. 



164 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" I am going your way," he answered, and 
turned with her. 

Now, although she had been nearly two 
years in Little Centre Bridge, that was the 
first time she had ever walked through the 
High Street in daylight escorted by the 
Rector. Two evenings before, a concert had 
been given in the town hall ; rain came on 
unexpectedly, and Dr. jNIurray had escorted 
Miss Dysart-Smith and INIiss Hamilton back 
to the college. He walked, not next to Miss 
Smith, as he ought to have done, but next 
to Miss Hamilton, with the disastrous result 
already mentioned — the drip from the um- 
brella went down ]\Iiss Smith's neck and 
gave her cold, while Miss Hamilton reached 
home without a drop having fallen upon her. 
Then the mother and daughter held a consul- 
tation ; decided that ]\Iary's discipline during 
play hours was too lax, and gave her notice. 

This was all in her mind now as she 
walked along beside the handsome Rector, 



MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 65 

and it seemed to her that the always busy 
High Street was unusually crowded that 
afternoon, and everyone she knew abroad. 
They passed little IMIss ^Masham, in her 
Victoria, and she certainly raised her eye- 
brows as she nodded and smiled. Then 
they met Airs. Sumner, and presently they 
came upon Mrs. \"erity, who. with three or 
four acquaintances, all women, stood talking 
and laughing outside the pastrycook's. 

Alary could not think of anything to say, 
and Dr. Alurray was silent, too. At last she 
made a stupid remark upon the beauty of the 
young foliage on the trees in the park. 

"Ah, October is the time for the Erskine 
beeches," cried the Rector, who was great 
upon autumn tints. 

"I know it is," Alary answered, "but I 

shall be eone lono^ before October ; Airs. 

Smith orave me notice this afternoon." 

" You are QToino- awav !" cried the Rector. 
00* 

upon whom the word notice jarred disagree- 



1 66 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

ably. "This is very sudden; very sudden 
indeed." 

Not another word was said on either side 
until the door leading into the grounds of the 
college was reached ; then Dr. Murray said, 
abruptly, ''How many afternoons have you 
disengaged each week ?" 

''Two," she answered, looking, as she felt, 
very much surprised, " Tuesdays and Satur- 
days." 

"And I never met you out before. Good- 
bye." 

As they were shaking hands the door was 
opened, and Mrs. and Miss Dysart-Smith 
came out. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE VISITOR WHO ^YALKS OX THE GRASS. 

It was on a Thursday that Mrs. Dysart- 
Smith found Dr. Murray shaking hands with 
Miss Hamilton at the door of the college 
grounds. On Friday was Miss Masham's 
fortnightly "At Home," and the Rector was 
the very first arrival. This was so unusual 
that his hostess allowed her surprise to 
appear in her greeting. "Are you going to 
give us an old sermon on Sunday ?" she said. 
" You have never come to one of my Fridays 
in good time before, and your excuse was 
that you had your sermon to write." 

" Quite true," he answered, smiling. " I 
am going to preach an old sermon on Sun- 
day, but not one you ever heard before." 



1 68 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

'' Take care. I have a capital memory. 
I shall find you out ; and if I detect even one 
sentence I know, I shall cough loudly." 

" That will be awkward for me unless 
you throw more originality into your cough 
than I do into my sermon. There is so 
much sameness in coughs that I may not be 
able to distinguish your note of warning. 
But I came early to find you alone If 
possible." 

" You are not going to make me an offer, 
I hope ?" 

The Rector laughed. '' Then you do not 
think I am too old to marry ?" he said. 

" On the contrary, you do not seem to me 
old enough to know your own mind, or when 
you have had encouragement enough to 
justify you in proposing." 

'' But have I received any ?" 

*'You let your umbrella drip down the 
poor girl's back and she did not resent it. I 
assure you everyone is talking of that um- 



THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. 1 69 

brella of yours, and I cannot make out which 
of the young ladles it dripped upon." 

''Well, If you must know. It was upon 
Miss Dysart-Smlth ; but I did not come here 
early to talk about her. Do you know that 
Miss Hamilton has been dismissed ?" 

*^Yes ; I had a note from her last night." 

" I want you to be kind enough to ask her 
to afternoon tea here on Tuesday." 

'* And what am I to do with her when she 
comes?" asked Miss ]\Iasham, and she looked 
at the Rector with an Inquisitive twinkle in 
her kind bright eyes. 

''Ask me, too, and I can help you to enter- 
tain her." 

" If you are so anxious to see her why do 
you not call at the college ? It Is just over 
the way from the Rectory." 

"I am afraid of Mrs. Dysart-Smlth."- 

"And how are you going to entertain Miss 
Hamilton if you meet her here ?" 

"I do not know whether you will look . 



170 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

upon it in the light of an entertainment or 
not, but I am going to ask her to marry me." 

Miss Masham uttered a long-drawn "Ah! 
You are a wise man not to go to the college 
on that errand," she said. " Depend upon it, 
Mrs. Smith found out how that umbrella of 
yours dripped the other night — hence the 
notice to quit. I assure you I am very glad, 
and I hope Mary will not be silly enough to 
refuse you." 

" I refuse to contemplate that possibility at 
all," said the Rector. " Of course, I cannot 
force her to marry me, but it will be a terrible 
disappointment if she says no." 

" Have you ever made love to her .^" 

Dr. Murray turned away with a gesture of 
annoyance. 

"There; don't be vexed," the indiscreet 
old lady went on. " I suppose it would be 
infra dig. for a D.D. to behave like a B.A., 
for instance. Now you just listen. By and 
by I mean to have a bit of fun with our old 



THE VISITOR \VHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. 171 

friend Mrs. Smith. I am going to tell her 
that I have heard of a situation that I think 
will suit Mary." 

When Miss Hamilton reached the pretty 
little villa on the London Road the following 
Tuesday, she found her small hostess in a 
state of flurry and excitement, quite unusual 
to her. She insisted upon taking the girl 
upstairs at once to take off her hat and jacket 
and arrange her hair. She even dived into a 
drawer and brought out a dark red bow, 
which, with her own hands, she pinned at 
Mary's throat, in order to lighten up the 
girl's grey gown. 

''I cannot bear grey gowns without a spec 
of colour about them," she said ; " and I am 
sure I hope you will not be allowed to wear 
them by and by." 

''And who is to prevent me ?" Mary asked. 

" I can't say," answered Miss Masham^ 
" but I hope someone will." 

Mary stood at the window — a front one — 



172 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

looking out, while Miss Masham bustled 
about the room. Presently the gate at the 
end of the short drive clicked. 

'' Another visitor ! Who can it be ?" and 
she came to the window and peeped over her 
guest's shoulder. 

" Dr. Murray, I declare ! Now what 
brings him here to-day ? And he never 
keeps on the gravel. He always will walk 
upon the grass. There, you see he is on it 
already. What an obstinate husband he will 
make. Come down, child. I dare say he 
has come to wheedle me out of a subscrip- 
tion ; I have not given anything towards the 
new organ yet. I declare that red bow has 
given you quite a pretty colour. We saw 
you coming, doctor," she began, as soon as 
she opened the door, " and, as usual, you 
walked on the grass. I never saw such a 
man as you are. You have quite a little path 
worn between the flower beds. W^hat am I 
to do with you ?" 



THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. I 75 

'* Put a veto on my visits." 

" Until you have someone with you to 
keep you in order. Is that what you mean ? 
Miss Hamilton arrived about ten minutes 
ago ; I have not had time to ask her how 
poor Miss Smith's throat is. But as she was 
here on Friday evening she cannot be very 
bad. What news is there in town to-day ? 
Is it true that young John Erskine is en- 
gaged to be married out in India ?" 

" Quite true ; I had it from Sir John him- 
self." 

" Is he pleased?" 

"Well, he makes the best of it; but I 
think he would like his son to marry at 
home." 

"And I see they have got their pet Radical 
staying with them again ; that handsome 
young fellow who got all his bones broken at 
the nomination. I saw him at church with 
them on Sunday." 

"He has come down to spend Easter," 



T74 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

said the Rector. '' I met him there at 
dinner, on Saturday night." 

'' I suppose Sir John knows that the man 
will very likely fall in love with Letty, if he 
has not done so already. Mrs. Verity was 
talking about it on Sunday; you know what 
a gossip she is." 

'' She waylaid me yesterday to try and find 
out if I knew what fortune the future Mrs. 
John Erskine has." 

"We must provide them with a fresh 
subject, or the poor Erskines will be worn 
threadbare," said Miss Masham. '' Set your 
wits to work, doctor, and think of something 
new. And now will you excuse me if I leave 
you to be entertained" — she laid a funny little 
emphasis on the word — ''by Miss Hamilton 
for half-an-hour, while I finish a letter for the 
five o'clock post ?" 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE rector's hat. 

It would be untrue to say that ^lary Hamil- 
ton felt altogether at her ease when she found 
herself alone with the Rector ; she did not 
think that Miss Masham was kind to rush off 
in that abrupt manner. She might have 
letters to finish before post time, it was true, 
but somehow Mary did not believe it. She 
was not very shy in general, but on this 
occasion she did not know w^hat to do ; 
whether boldly to plunge into conversation 
or wait for her companion to begin. 

He was standing with his back to her, 
looking out of one of the windows, and she 
did not feel bold enough to address him. 
Three minutes passed ; in desperation she 



176 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

took Up a book, but she had scarcely opened 
it when Dr. Murray left the window and 
came over to her ; then followed a few 
seconds of utter bewilderment, before she 
realised that he was asking her to be his wife. 

There was no ambiguity In his love- 
making; he said very little about his feelings, 
but his meaning was unmistakable. Mary 
made more than one effort to speak, but no 
words would come, and she felt like a simple- 
ton as she sat there, with the much-coveted 
Rector of Little Centre Bridge standing 
before her waiting for his answer. 

" You might say something to me," he 
pleaded at last. " I hope you will say 'yes,' 
but an answer of some kind I have a right to 
expect." 

'' Ah ! you would not ask me If you knew 
my story !" she broke out at last. Then she 
covered her face and began to cry. 

*' I do not think your 'story,' as you call it, 
can be anything so very terrible," he 



THE RECTORS HAT. 1 77 

answered ; " and I am quite sure there is 
nothing in it that would make me think less 
highly of you." 

On hearing this, Mary's sobs broke out 
afresh, and, made desperate by the sight of 
her grief, Dr. Murray knelt on one knee by 
her side and tried to get her hands into his. 

''My dear, don't cry," he said, quite 
piteously. "I cannot answer for myself when 
I see you in trouble. Tell me what it is, 
and let mesee if I cannot make it lighter." 

" You will not care for me any more when 
you know," she said, mournfully. 

'' I am not sure of that ; but you must let 
me be the judge." 

Mary gave a great sigh and began. " I — 
I was not always poor," she said. " We 
were w^ell off while my father was alive, and 
I — I was engaged to be married " 

" I am not surprised to hear that," put in 
the Rector, smiling at her ; " but I am happy 
to know that it was broken off." 

VOL. I. N 



178 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

'* But not as you think. He — he jilted me " 
— Mary whispered the terrible word. "When 
papa died, and it was found out that he had 
speculated and lost all his money, he went 
away without even saying good-bye, and 
married another woman directly. It nearly 
broke my heart. It was such a — a disgrace 
to be deserted In that way, and I cared for 
im. 

''Poor child!" said the Rector, as he 
pressed her hands fondly In his. 

" Oh, you must not pity me," she cried. 
" I can bear anything but that ; it hurts 
me." 

''And I would not hurt you for the 
world." 

She gave one quick look at him, and then 
her eyes fell. 

" You need not doubt It, Mary, for I love 
you with all my heart. You do not really 
think that I am going to let what you have 
just told me come between us ? No, my 



THE RECTORS HAT. I 79 

dear, If you are going to reject me you 
must find some better reason. The question 
is — can you like me well enough to marry 
me r 

" Like you ?" she repeated. '' Oh, Dr. 
Murray !" 

'' Well, what does that mean ?" 

'' It means — oh, how can I tell you ?" 

" V^ery easily. I am not particular about 
the manner if the matter is to my liking- 
Just make it clear to me that you will be my 
wife." 

" But are you quite sure you will not wish 
to-morrow you had not asked me .^" 

"If any such ridiculous idea enters my 
head I promise to tell you of it directly." 

" But do not people change their minds 
sometimes when they begin to think over 
things ?" 

" Well, considering that I have thought 
over this for some time, I may be allowed to 
say that any change is impossible. I wish I 



l8o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

were as sure of you, Mary, as I am of 
myself" 

''I am quite sure of myself," she answered, 
softly, and on hearing the words, the doctor, 
like a sensible man, without more ado took 
her in his arms and kissed her. " You owe 
me compensation," he said, "for having kept 
me In suspense so long." 

'' But it seems so strange that you should 
want to marry me," said Mary. 

" I do not see that," he answered. " I am 
sure I did my best to show you that I liked 
you." 

" Did you ever think of me when you 
walked in your garden ?" Mary asked, when 
the Rector had enlarged at length upon his 
state of mind during the past six months; 
and she heard with surprise that she had 
often come between him and the writing of 
his sermon. There was something wonderful 
in the idea that he had been in love with her 
for so long. 



THE rector's hat. i8i 

* ' What do you know about my walks in 
the garden ?" he asked. 

Mar)^ blushed and laughed. The doctor 
pressed the question. 

'' The window of my room overlooks your 
garden," she said, '* and I used to see you 
nearly every day." 

" Very well, then if I confess to you, you 
must confess to me. When you have seen 
me in my garden did you ever wish to be 
walking there with me ?" 

" That is a very hard question." 

'' Never mind that. Answer it." 

" I thought it would be very pleasant — if 
the weather were fine." 

Dr. Murray laughed heartily. ''I do not 
think I believe in the ' if,' " he said. " For 
my part, ]^Iary, I can say with truth that I 
thought of you, and you only, as I walked up 
and down." 

" You remember the day last week I met 
you in the Post Office ?" said Mary. 



182 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

'' Perfectly. It was last Thursday ; the 
day you told me you were going away. 
What about It ?" 

" Just before I went out with my letters I 
saw you in the garden ; you had your hat off, 
and you were looking up into an apple tree ; 
were you thinking of me then ?" 

" I am sure I was. I dare say I was 
wondering if you knew how to make an 
apple dumpling, you little sceptic. You 
remember I walked back with you to the 
college, and we met Mrs. and Miss Smith at 
the gate. Did they say anything disagree- 
able to you ?" 

" Not a word." 

'' They were very gracious to me, and I 
could not help wondering what they would 
say had they guessed that I was medi- 
tating writing to you that very evening to 
make you an offer. In fact, I began two 
letters." 

"Oh! I should like to see them," cried 



THE RECTORS HAT. 1 83 

Mary. " I suppose you thought If you wrote 
to me someone would see the letters and 
make a fuss." 

" Well, yes ; I believe I did think a little 
about the fuss, as you call It, but I wanted to 
have the pleasure of hearing from your own 
lips that you loved me and would be my wife ; 
and now I want you to fix the day for our 
marriage. It may as well be very soon ; we 
have nothing to wait for." 

A troubled expression came Into Mary's 
soft eyes. "It Is all of no use," she said. 
" I may fix the day, but it will come to 
nothing. Do you know that I was twenty- 
eight my last birthday, and I have been so 
miserable ever since my father died that I 
feel very old .^ If you marry me, all your 
friends will say you have thrown yourself 
away." 

'* I am a patient man, Mary, so I heard 
you out. Come now, tell me honestly, do 
you think I am throwing myself away ?" 



184 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" I think if you really care for me, that I 
can make you happy." 

'' Then the question is settled ; and I hope 
very soon to have you walking with me in 
my garden, instead of looking at me from 
a window." 

Another hour passed before Miss Masham 
reappeared, but the rest of the conversation 
that took place between Dr. Murray and 
Miss Hamilton is not worth recording ; the 
sample already given is, perhaps, more 
sensible than what followed. When Miss 
Masham came in, she found Mary looking 
out of the window, and the Rector on the 
hearthrug, in the well-known John Bull 
attitude. 

'' If I did not know that you both took up 
your present very unnatural positions the 
moment you heard my hand on the handle of 
the door, I should say you had quarrelled !" 
the little woman said. " Turn round, Mary, 
and let me look at you. Cheeks like peonies, 



THE rector's hat. 1 85 

and that bow, I took so much trouble to put 
on, all awry ! There is no change for the 
worse in Dr. Murray, so I may take it for 
granted that he has had everything his own 
way." 

'' Not quite," said the Rector, gravely, 
*'but I was getting on very fairly " 

" Do not listen to him, Miss Masham," 
interrupted Mary. "He has had everything 
his own way. My most carefully guarded 
secrets have been wrung from me ! No 
inquisitor was ever more unmerciful " 

" She is not telling the truth," interrupted 
the Rector, In his turn. '' It was nothing but 
her Incredulity, her scepticism, that put off 
the final setdement of a most Important 
question. We were not engaged more than 
five minutes when you " 

"Oh!" cried Mary. " It struck half-past 
five when you " 

" Pray spare me the details," Interrupted 
Miss Masham. " I can Imagine w^hat took 



1 86 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

place at half-past five, and it Is now past six. 
I dismiss Dr. Murray's statement as to the 
length of your engagement, as unworthy of 
belief, and I want to know. Miss Hamilton, 
when you think of telling Mrs. Dysart-Smlth 
that you have found a situation you think will 
suit." 

** I forgot all about her," answered 
Mary. " 1 am afraid she will be very 
angry." 

" I am sure she will. I do not know what 
grounds she has to go upon, but I believe she 
looked upon Dr. Murray as her future son-in- 
law. However, you and he, Mary, must 
settle It between you." 

'' I am sure this girl does not think I am 
to blame," said the Rector, as he put his arm 
round Mary's waist. Nothing these women 
say can hurt her now, and when she is my 
wife " 

" I prophesy that before you come back 
from your honeymoon," said Miss Masham, 



THE RECTORS HAT. iSy 

'' the Ladies' College will have changed 
hands." 

" I shall always feel an interest in the 
place for the sake of one window," whispered 
Dr. Murray ; and Miss Masham, although 
she pretended to be very busy clearing a 
table for the tea-tray, saw the girl look up at 
him with a bright, loving glance. The 
Rector could not resist it ; he bent down and 
gave her a kiss. 

'' I see that it is quite useless to expect a 
man to be sensible, even at his age, when he 
falls in love," the old lady murmured. 

The servant came in with the tea-tray, and 
Mary and the doctor walked away to the 
window, and there stood talking in whispers 
until Miss Masham interrupted them. 

'' I think you might let that poor girl have 
a cup of tea, doctor," she said. " Tea was 
really what she came for, you know, and we 
are nearly an hour late." 

" And as it was not what I came for, I 



iSS A GAME OF CHANCE. 

suppose I must not have any," he answered. 
Then he went with Mary to the table and 
helped himself. 

Half-an-hour later, when he said good-bye 
to Miss Masham, Mary would not allow him 
to walk back with her to the town. " If we 
are seen together again," she said, " everyone 
will sav that I am trvinor to ' catch ' vou, and 
I could not bear that." 

" Then the sooner everyone knows you 
have caught me the better I shall be 
pleased," he answered, as he stood with her 
at the gate. "And remember, the moment 
I get home I shall go out and look up at that 
window." 

" But you will not see me," said Mary. " I 
do not mean to look into the garden any 
more." 

'' Then you are very hard-hearted." He 
was talking against time just to keep her 
with him a little longer, but she broke away 
at last, and looked round once onlv, to wave 



THE RECTORS HAT. 1 89 

her hand to him before she reached a turn in 
the road. 

As she went round the bend she came face 
to face with Mrs, Dysart- Smith and her 
daughter. They were on their way to call 
upon Miss Masham, 

**You will not get back to the college be- 
fore the tea-bell rings. Miss Hamilton," said 
Mrs. Smith, severely. " I think when you 
are allowed out in the afternoon you might 
be home in good time." 

Mary murmured an incoherent apology^ 
and went on almost running in her excite- 
ment. How fortunate that she had not 
allowed the Rector to escort her ; but then it 
was just possible that the Smiths would find 
him still standing at Miss Masham s gate. 

But he was not there; he was in the 
drawing-room, holding forth to Miss Masham 
about Mar)^ and his great happiness in having^ 
won her when the two ladies appeared on 
the avenue. 



190 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" They must have met her, and I cannot 
face them," he said. "Call me a coward if 
you like, but hide me somewhere." 

"That door behind you leads into the 
morning-room. There ! Be quick ; the 
Philistines are upon us ! Bless the man ! 
He has left his hat behind him !" and Miss 
Masham had barely time to throw it — fortu- 
nately it was a soft, clerical wide-awake — 
upon the ground behind a sofa, when the 
two ladies were shown in. 

When the effusive greetings were over, 
Miss Dysart-Smith, as luck would have it, 
seated herself on the sofa that screened the 
hat ; if she turned her head ever so little she 
must see it. For half-an-hour by the clock 
on the chimney-piece the mother and 
daughter sat and talked volubly, and poor 
Miss Masham was on thorns. She had a 
keen sense of the ridiculous, and she did not 
want anything absurd to happen in her draw- 
ing-room. And what could be more absurd 



THE RECTORS HAT. I9I 

than the discovery of the doctor's hat, except 
the discovery of the doctor himself, hidden 
away in the morning-room. 

At last the visitors stood up to go, and 
there was a muslin antimacassar found en- 
tangled by Its lace edging in the beaded 
fringe of Miss Smith's mantle. Was ever 
anything so unlucky ! She took it off, turned 
to replace It upon the sofa, and, as she did so, 
she saw the hat. She knew whose it was ; 
there was not another exactly like it in Little 
Centre Bridge. Now, in his own house a 
man is generally not far from his own hat, 
and in a strange house he must be very near 
indeed, and Miss Smith peered down as if 
she expected to see the Rector crouching on 
the floor beside his head-gear ; but he was 
not visible, and she had to go away. 

Miss Masham gave a great sigh of relief 
as her visitors disappeared ; then she ran to 
the door of the morning-room, and, opening 
it, called out, ''The coast Is clear. Here Is 



192 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

your hat." There was no reply ; she looked 
in ; the room was empty ; the Rector had 
gone off without his hat. 



CHAPTER XV. 

OTWAY IN CHAINS. 

When Otway asked Sir John if he would 
give him his daughter, he did not imagine 
that Letty had already told her father what 
had taken place in the wood. Sir John 
showed no surprise ; he said simply enough, 
" The child told me you had asked her, and I 
think you had better be satisfied with her 
answer. I could not give her to you against 
her will." 

" But I do not think she knows how much 
in earnest I am," pleaded Otway. **Your 
consent might have some weight." 

"Humph!" said Sir John, remembering 
Letty's comments upon her lover's manner. 

'' But you have no objection to me per- 
VOL. I. o 



194 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

sonally, have you, Sir John ?" said Otway, 
eagerly. 

" Not the slightest, my boy. I do not 
like your politics, but, after all, they don't 
count for much now-a-days, do they ? And 
we can afford to differ. I know nothing 

o 

against you, and I believe you are fond of 
the child; indeed, I may as well tell you that 
I suspected your fancy for her long ago. 
But she doesn't care a pin for you ; she 
says she doesn't." 

Poor Otway winced visibly. '* That is 
hard upon me," he said; "very hard." 

''But you do not want a wife who does 
not love you, I suppose ?" 

'' I want her," the young man answered, 
" and I mean to do my very best to win her 
if I can." 

" I suppose," said Sir John, with an air of 
the greatest Innocency, *'you have done your 
best already ? Gone the right way to work, 
you know, and all that. Isn't it true that 



OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 95 

some women are caught one way and some 
another ?" 

*' There is but one way that I know of. 
If a man loves a woman to desperation, as I 
do, he tells her so, and does all he can to win 
her love in return." 

"And all is very little, sometimes," mut- 
tered Sir John, who felt bound in honour not 
to give Otway a hint to be less meek and 
submissive ; besides, although he liked the 
man well enough, he did not want to lose 
Letty just yet. 

"She is very young," the lover went on, 
"and very guileless and innocent; and it is 
very presumptuous, perhaps, of me to think 
that I could make her happy. To have her 
for my very own would make me so per- 
fectly, so absolutely content, that perhaps I 
do not think enough about her, and " 

" For goodness' sake do not get meta- 
physical or logical, or whatever it is," 
interrupted Sir John, upon whom such 



196 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

reasoning was utterly lost. '' A girl mar- 
ries a man because she loves him, and they 
are bound to make the best of one another. 
That is my idea of matrimony, and if you 
and Letty agree to take one another ' for 
better, for worse,' you have my consent. 
What more can I say ? And now come along 
with me to the stables ; I want to show you 
a cob I bought the other day for my own 
use." 

During the next few days, although Otway 
and Letty were very much together, and 
often alone, he was silent on the subject of 
his love. His visit was to last nearly a 
fortnight, as Easter Day did not fall until 
the Sunday week after he came down ; if she 
again rejected him, he felt that he could 
not stay on as her father's guest, and so he 
waited. 

His silence was In his favour. Letty 
thought much of that fervent declaration In 
the wood ; Indeed, she thought more of it 



OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 97 

than of the man who made it, for when she 
thought of him, his want of self-assertion 
annoyed her. But it was very sweet to be 
so worshipped and adored, and it would, no 
doubt, be very delightful, in many ways, 
to marry a man who was prepared to carry 
on the worship and adoration ; she could not 
feel any great amount of respect for him, but 
then he could not expect what he did not 
deserve. 

" I could simply turn him round my finger," 
she often said to herself, and she took to 
practising diverse little arts upon him, and he 
fell so easily into all her traps and pitfalls, 
and let her see so plainly that any ill treat- 
ment was better than neglect and indifference, 
that she presently began to look upon him as 
a puppet specially retained to dance to her 
wire-pulling. 

" If I marry him," she used to say to 
herself, "he must let me live here at home 
more than half the year with papa and Aunt 



198 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Louise ; they would be so lonely by them- 
selves. We do not want him to be always 
about, but I could run up to town sometimes 
to see how he Is getting on. I should die If 
I had to keep on ordering dinners every day 
all the year round. What I should like 
would be to marry him ; to have a very, very 
short honeymoon — I suppose he would Insist 
upon a honeymoon, but I am afraid I should 
have lost all patience with him at the end of 
a week — and then for us to separate. I 
could come here to papa, and he could go 
back to London. That would be delightful ! 
Yes ; I am very much afraid If I were too 
much with him, and he behaved always In 
that Idiotic way, telling me that I was an 
angel and that he adored me, I should 
dislike him, and I do not want to dislike 
him." 

With her mind full of these most absurd 
Ideas, she was kinder to Otway as the days 
went on ; teasing him less and less, and not 



OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 99 

snapping off his admiring speeches quite so 
short. But she did not fall in love with him. 
His visit was coming to an end, and he re- 
solved to make one more effort. She walked 
with him nearly every afternoon, and on 
Easter Monday, accident having brought 
them to the beech coppice again, he found 
his opportunity and spoke. 

Letty did not seat herself this time upon 
the fallen tree ; she remained leaning against 
an upright one ; Otway stood facing her at 
a little distance. 

" It Is nearly your last day," she said, care- 
lessly. 

" My last day of happiness," he said, " un- 
less you allow me to come back." 

" I have nothing to do with it. Papa will 
probably ask you." 

" You have everything. Give me one ray 
of hope, Letty ; only one." 

" How much is a ray ?" she asked, saucily. 
" How am I to measure it ?" 



200 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" Say you will be glad to see me." 

'' You know that already." 

" But I will not come back for that," he 
protested. '' At least, I will not if I can 
keep away." 

" I do not think you could keep away," 
she answered, still with her saucy air, "you 
are very fond of — the Chase." 

'' No, Letty, but of you. I did not think 
It was possible to love you more than I did 
when we talked on this very spot the day 
I came back, but I know better now. Am I 
to go to my work in London, miserable — 
broken-hearted ? Do you not care for me 
even a little ? You have been kinder of 
late." 

"How much would satisfy you?" she 
asked, half-fllppantly. " I am afraid to say a 
word lest you should ask too much." 

" Your will is law to me," he cried, passion- 
ately, "try me — trust me! I swear to you 
not to encroach upon your kindness. Let 



OTWAY IN CHAINS. 20I 

me love you ; that is all I ask, until — until 
you are my wife." 

"And my will must be law then, too," 
she said. 

"You will marry me, then ?" 

" On those terms." 

"Oh, Letty ; my darling!" In his delight 
Otway would have clasped her in his arms 
and kissed her, but she would not allow him. 

" That is not the way to begin," she said, 
and there was not a smile on her face, "at 
least, it is not vty way. Come and let us 
take a walk ; we have dawdled here long 
enough." 

As they walked she chatted to him upon 
every imaginable subject but the one so 
near his heart ; every attempt he made to 
speak of his feelings, his hopes for the future, 
his rapture at her acceptance, she either 
laughed at or received with a stolidity of 
demeanour that drove him to the verge of 
distraction. 



202 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Would she not listen while he said once, 
just once, how happy she had made him, and 
how devotedly — how ardently he loved her ? 

No ; she did not want to hear it all over 
again ; she liked him very much better when 
he talked about music, or books, or plays, or 
even politics, which she confessed she did not 
understand. There was nothing in the whole 
world as silly as love-making, and she hated it. 
Yes ; she had said she would marry him ; it 
was not exactly a promise, but if she did not 
change her mind she would marry him by 
and by. No, he must not call her ''his own," 
or " an angel " either. She was neither the 
one nor the other ; she was Letty Erskine, 
and if he w^ent on his knees to her, which he 
seemed very well inclined to do, she would 
not let him kiss her. 

And while she thus tormented him, and 
drove him almost wild with her banter and 
rebuffs, she was saying to herself — " Oh, if 
you only knew what a little audacity would 



OTWAY IN CHAINS. 203 

do. Why don't you say, ' Letty, you must,' 
instead of ' Letty, will you ?' with your heart 
in your eyes ? You could so easily take by 
force what I will not give for beseeching." 

An hour after the scene in the beech copse 
when Letty, with her infatuated slave in 
excellent order by her side, entered the 
house. Miss Lambton came running to meet 
them. 

*' I have just been to look for you, dear,'" 
she cried, ''there is an Indian telegram. Jack 
is married." 



CHAPTER XVI. 

A LETTER FROM JACK. 

It was the height of the London season. 
Everyone was in town ; the weather was 
fine ; the shops were looking their gayest 
and prettiest ; there were attractive bills at 
the theatres ; there was plenty of first-rate 
music to be heard ; and half-a-dozen new 
beauties were on view every day in the 
park. 

The Erskines had a furnished house in 
Halkin Street ; Sir John liked to be near 
what he was pleased to call the " scene of his 
labours at Westminster." He was a most 
conscientious member ; would sit for hours 
listening to most uninteresting debates, 
Avas never out of the way when a division 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 205 

was expected, and never opened his lips 
except to speak to a friend. 

There was a Drawing-room soon after 
Easter. Letty was presented, and she had 
the pleasure of reading a detailed catalogue 
of her charms in one or two of the " society " 
papers. It was not disagreeable, of course, 
to know that her youth and peculiar style of 
beauty enabled her to bear the trying ordeal 
of Court dress by daylight, but it was not 
so delightful to find it broadly hinted in 
another paragraph that it was this "lovely 
ddbutante who had won the Stoneshire 
election for her father, Sir John Erskine ;" 
or that it was " an open secret that the 
Liberal candidate, who had so suddenly and 
unaccountably retired from the contest for 
Stoneshire, was engaged to the beautiful 
daughter of the present member, a Conser- 
vative of the old-fashioned type." 

If Otway saw the objectionable allusions 
to himself and his betrothed, he never 



206 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

mentioned them. The enQfacrement between 
them was really known only to a few very 
old friends, for, although Sir John had given 
his consent willingly enough, he did not wish 
Letty to marry for six months at least, and 
the girl herself would willingly have put it 
off for a year could she have found any 
pretext, save her own unreasonable caprice, 
for the postponement. Otway, more in love, 
if possible, than he had been when he asked 
her to marry him, unconsciously did his best 
to turn the girl's heart away from him by his 
continued and never-failing patience and for- 
bearance with all her whims and fancies. If 
she tried to provoke him by flirting with 
other men, he would simply look at her in 
mute reproach, instead of getting angry, and 
scolding and upbraiding her, as she wished 
him to do. It is quite possible that he felt 
jealous, but he never showed it. 

He submitted to her caprices, and they 
were legion ; he endured her neglect when 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 207 

she neglected him, with unfailing good- 
temper, and was rapturously, absurdly grate- 
ful when she noticed him with favour and 
approval. His desire was to win her by 
his dumb, dog-like devotion, and she never 
for a moment imagined that it was only by 
the exercise of his iron will that he kept the 
passionate love he felt for her in check. It 
was a terrible mistake on her part to imagine 
that he was weak, and on his to hide his 
strength ; and when they found out their 
error, it was too late to rectify it. 

The people of Little Centre Bridge had 
been overwhelmed with subjects for gossip 
when, almost at the same moment, it became 
known that young Erskine was actually 
married in India, that his sister Letty was 
engaged to Herbert Otway — for, somehow, 
It got out that she had accepted him, 
although Sir John wished the matter to be 
kept secret — and that the Rector, Dr. 
Murray, was going to marry Mary Hamil- 



208 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

ton, the English governess at the Ladles' 
College. 

And It was that extraordinary and un- 
looked for bit of news that extinguished 
everything else. Everyone wanted to know 
how it had come about. Everyone said 
what a " clever, sly little thing " she was to 
*' catch " him, and everyone was curious 
to know how Mrs. Dysart-Smlth and her 
daughter would take it. 

To all appearance, they bore It extremely 
well. Mrs. Smith was too clever a woman 
to let her disappointment be seen ; so, the 
moment she heard that Mary was actually 
engaged, she changed her tactics, over- 
whelmed the bride-elect with congratulations 
and kindness, and very neatly turned the 
tables upon her own friends and acquain- 
tances — who were looking out for her discom- 
fiture — by telling them how delighted she was 
that the " dear girl was going to have a good 
husband and a happy home of her own." 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 209 

It was now the end of May. Sir John, his 
daughter and Miss Lambton were seated 
at a rather late breakfast, and Letty was 
looking as bright and as pretty as If she had 
not been dancing until two o'clock that same 
morning. She was the last to come down, 
certainly, but her father had only just opened 
the Times when she came in. 

*' Good-morning, my pet," he said, as she 
kissed him. ''There is a letter from Jack for 
you. Let's hear the news ; we have had 
but one shabby half-sheet from him, the lazy 
rascal, since he married." 

" And that was all taken up with raptures 
about his bride !" said Letty. " What are 
you smiling at. Aunt Louise ? Who is your 
long letter from ?" 

" From Jane Masham. The Rector was 
married the day before yesterday, and he and 
Mrs. Murray are off to the Lakes. She was 
married from the Rosary, and Mrs. Dysart- 
Smith's present was the cake, and she and 

VOL. L P 



2IO A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Miss Smith were at the wedding. The 
church was most beautifully decorated, Jane 
Masham says, and the day was kept as a sort 
of holiday in the town." 

" I see the marriage in the Times this 
morning," said Sir John. " I wish we had 
been there. I suppose, Miss Letty, yours 
will be the next grand wedding in Little 
Centre Bridge ?" 

'* I mean to be married in London, if I 
marry at all," Letty answered. ''I do not 
want to be stared at." Then she opened her 
Indian letter, and began to read. "They are 
back at Meerut," she said, presently, " and 
there are all manner of gaieties going on for 
the bride. Jack says he is as happy as 
possible, and his darling Amy is so much 
admired, he is prouder of her than ever. I 
can't fancy Jack married! Can you, papa? 
' I wish 1 could bring her home and introduce 
her to you all,' " the girl went on, reading from 
the letter, "'but that is impossible, just yet. 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 2 I I 

Your old friend, Arthur Fllmer, is beginning 
to knock up with the cHmate, and will pro- 
bably have to go home on sick-leave before 
long. He will look you up at the Chase, and 
bring you some presents we picked up on our 
travels.' Now there are some more raptures 
about Amy, which I am going to skip, if you 
please," said Letty. "There is no doubt that 
when men fall in love they become perfectly 
idiotic. What is this ? This looks more in- 
teresting. ' You remember I told you about 
Amy's good-looking maid, Rossitur ? I 
forgot to mention in my last that she was 
married just a fortnight before we were, to 
my man, Pottinger, who came to the Chase 
for the dogs, you remember, before I left. 
We knew she was engaged to him, but I did 
not think it would come to anything, for, 
between ourselves, she is the most outrageous 
flirt I ever met. Lots of our fellows were 
after her, and, to tell you the truth, I thought 
at one time, Buncombe, of Ours, would marry 



2 12 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

her. By the way, he is next heir, he says, to 
old Wat Duncombe, of the Hermitage — the 
governor knows him — the ''hermit," we used 
to call him — so you may have Walter for a 
neighbour some day. I don't like the fellow 
myself, and I wish he was out of the regiment, 
but that's neither here nor there. Well, I 
was going to tell you that this Duncombe was 
very sweet upon Rossitur, and Amy tells me 
that Pottinger threatened ''to do for him," 
more than once, but, as she is now Mrs. P., I 
suppose it is all right. The absurd thing is 
that Duncombe and Filmer, and a lot more of 
the fellows, insist that Rossitur is like my 
wife! I'm hanged if I can see it ; but I dare 
say you will be able to judge for yourself 
some day, when we come home, for nothing 
would induce Amy to part with " Rossitur," 
as she is still called. I don't take to her so 
much myself, but I would not vex Amy, by 
saying so, for the world.' " 

** There," said Letty, " I hope he has 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 213 

written enough about that tiresome woman. 
I cannot tell you what a dislike I have taken 
to her, although I never saw her ; and I have 
a most extraordinary presentiment about her, 
too, as If she would do us some harm some 
day." 

''Oh, that Is nonsense," said Sir John. 

" I suppose It Is," said Letty. Then, after 
a pause, '' I'm so glad Arthur Fllmer Is 
coming home ; he Is such a dear nice fellow." 

" You must not let Herbert hear you say 
that," said Sir John ; "he will be jealous." 

''He jealous!" cried Letty, tossing her 
head, "I do not believe he knows how." 

" Don't you Indeed ! You had better not 
try him too far. Is he coming to ride with 
you this morning ?'' 

" No, I put him off. I would much rather 
go with you, daddy. When he Is with me I 
am simply bored to death. He Is always 
staring at me as If he never saw me before, 
and asking If I would not like to go to this 



2 14 ^ GAME OF CHANCE. 

play or that concert. Why does he not 
settle where I am to go, and then take me, 
whether I like It or not ?" 

'' Perhaps he does not think you would 
like that style of thing, my dear." 

" Let him try it. I am tired of having my 
own way. I should like a little coercion by 
way of variety. But you must not tell him, 
papa. Let him find out for himself, if he 
can." 

Sir John laughed. He thought It all a 
good joke. '' Poor Otway !" he said, *' you 
will lead him a life when you are married." 

'' Yes ; when we are," the girl muttered, as 
she took up her brother's letter again. " Oh, 
papa," she said, presently, ''do you ever see 
anything of that old Mr. Buncombe Jack 
mentions ?" 

'' No ; not now. He used to sit on the 
bench sometimes when there was a poaching 
case, but he hardly ever leaves the house 
now, I hear, and no one visits him. He is 



A LETTER FROM JACK. 215 

not a very reputable character, I am afraid, 
if all accounts be true, and I suspect that 
nephew or cousin of his, who is in Jack's 
regiment, is not much better. But don't you 
wonder that Jack's wife keeps that woman — 
what's her name — about her, Louise ?" he 
added, addressing his sister-in-law. "Flighty 
maid generally means flighty mistress, I 
think ; and they say she is like Amy, too." 

" But Jack doesn't, papa." 

" Oh, no ; of course he wouldn't see the 
likeness, but I daresay it's there. I re- 
member that fellow Pottinger very well — a 
good-looking fellow — and I remember saying 
to Jack that he looked an excitable sort of 
chap ; and Jack told me he had had a great 
shock just before he came to the Chase. 
A gamekeeper shot himself on account of 
some girl. He was jealous of Pottinger, I 
believe." 

" But that girl could not have been Rossi- 
tur," said Letty. "Could she, papa?" 



2l6 A GAME OF CHANCE 

" I suppose not, my dear, if she was Miss 
Gordon's maid." 

'' But, remember," said Miss Lambton, 
"Amy and Rossitur went out in the Great 
Pyramid three years ago, with Jack." 

"And what has that to do with it?" cried 
Sir John, testily. " I am sick of the very 
name of that maid of Amy's. I wish you 
would tell Jack not to write about her any 
more " 



CHAPTER XVII. 

NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE. 

Seated at his solitary breakfast that same 
morning In his bachelor flat In Victoria 
Street, Westminster, Otway worked his way 
^n a rather desultory fashion through his cor- 
respondence. He was late that morning as 
well as his friends In Halkin Street, and had 
he been depending upon his profession for a 
livelihood, he could not have afforded to 
neglect his work as he had done since the 
Ersklnes came to town. 

It was now several days since he had been 
at his chambers In the Temple, and he was 
thinking of spending an hour or two In them 
this very morning, as Letty had ordered him 
not to ride w^ith her or even to show himself 



2l8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

In the Row, and he always obeyed her Im- 
perious commands. And what a glorious 
morning It was for a ride. It was very hard 
that he could not enjoy It with her, and It 
never occurred to him that she would have 
secretly rejoiced over his disobedience If he 
had ventured to appear without her per- 
mission. 

He excused his absurd submission to her 
whims by the plea that he was afraid of 
frightening her away from him, If he show^ed 
that he had a will of his own and could use 
it. He did not deceive himself about her ; 
he believed that she liked him, but to his 
sorrow he knew she did not love him, and he 
fondly Imagined that she could not long 
remain Indifferent to a man who worshipped 
her with such slavish devotion as he ex- 
hibited day after day. And yet, somehow, 
the slavish w^orshlp seemed to increase, but 
the answerlno^ love did not awake. Then 
he said to himself, '' She will love me 



NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE. 219 

when we are married. I must wait till 
then." 

He was thinking of her now as he sat 
alone over his breakfast. Twice only had 
she danced with him the night before, and 
other men had scribbled their names on her 
programme for dance after dance with an 
amount of effrontery that he envied but could 
not Imitate. She had not been kind to him 
the whole evening. The flowers he had sent 
her were not pretty, she said, so she did not 
wear them ; and he had no business to stand 
where she found him, watching for her 
when she came Into the room. It was bad 
taste on his part. In short, he could not 
please by word or deed. She flouted him ; 
she teased him ; she said sharp things to 
him ; but she could not provoke him to 
quarrel with her, and she declared to herself 
when she got home, that she could not and 
would not marry such a good-tempered, sub- 
missive man for the whole world. 



2 20 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

His letters were numerous, but not very 
interesting. Some of them had been for- 
warded from his chambers, and among them, 
as he turned them over, was one that arrested 
his attention. It was eight years at least 
since he had seen that bold dashing hand, 
although at one time it had been familiar 
enough. Of course, it was but natural that 
the writing should recall the writer, and a 
faint flush rose to his face as he turned the 
letter over, and looked at the elaborate blue 
gold and red monogram on the envelope. 

" How completely I had forgotten her," he 
said. He opened the letter with the air of a 
man who expected to find something dis- 
agreeable inside, and read as follows — 

" No. 200, Queen's Gate Terrace. 

'' My dear Mr. Otwav, 

" I hope you have not quite forgot- 
ten me, but I am afraid you have, as you 
seem to have taken no trouble to find out my 
address ; and yet you must know what a 



NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE. 22 1 

pleasure it would be for me to see you ao-aln. 
I am in great trouble, and T want your 
advice. Can you come and lunch with me on 
Thursday next at two o'clock ? My husband 
is out of town. 

'' Yours sincerely, 

" Caroline Ogilvey.'* 
'' Mine sincerely, Caroline Ogilvey !" he 
repeated. " No ; not mine, I am happy to 
say, and not very sincere either, unless eight 
years spent with ' Moneybags Ogilvey,' as 
we used to call him, have changed you very 
much. And eight years ago I fancied my- 
self in love with you, and I did not find out 
how little I really cared until I heard of your 
marriage. In trouble is she .'^ And she 
wants me to help her. Well, perhaps she 
is, poor woman. I am not vain enough 
to suppose that she wants to get me 
into her toils again." He went to his 
writing-table and scribbled a hasty note, as 
follows — 



22 2 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" Mv DEAR Mrs. Ogilvey, 

" I have not forgotten you, and I 
am sorry to hear you are in trouble. Expect 
me to luncheon to-morrow at two. 
" Yours, 

" Herbert Otwav." 

He pushed the note aside, as soon as it 
was wTitten, and, opening a drawer, took out 
a cabinet photograph of Letty Erskine in her 
riding-dress, which, strange to say, she had 
had taken to gratify a desire of his, and fell 
to rapt contemplation of the sweet face he 
loved. Needless to say, he knew every line 
by heart already, but was he ever tired of 
gazing at those saucy laughing eyes, and the 
exquisite turn of the throat and chin ? The 
likeness was an admirable one, as the artist 
had, happily, caught one of his sitter's most 
bewitching expressions, and Otw^ay was such 
a miser about the picture that he longed to 
order the negative to be destroyed. How 
Letty would have admired him, if he had had 



NO. 200, QUEEN S GATE TERRACE. 223 

the audacity to say that he, and he only, 
should possess a copy of that particular 
photograph ; but he did nothing of the kind, 
and, with the most amiable liberality, she 
dispensed them far and wide among her 
admirers. 

It was with his mind still full of Letty's 
charms, that Otway at length put his reply to 
j\Irs. Ogilvey into an envelope, and rang the 
bell for his servant to take it to the post 
without delay ; then he dressed and went 
down to his chambers. 

He dined at Halkin Street the same 
evening. There was a large dinner-party, and 
he hoped to sit next to Letty, but she was at 
the other end of the table, laughing, talking 
and enjoying herself with some man Otw^ay 
had never seen before. He had known her, 
now in many moods, but he found her in a 
new one on this evening ; she was in the 
wildest spirits, but she scarcely spoke to him ; 
he followed her about, as usual, and once or 



2 24 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

twice she told him to fetch her fan, or her 
handkerchief, or her gloves — anything she 
chanced to miss — and she took them with 
just a careless word of thanks. 

At last, when he was about to say good- 
night, she suddenly became most gracious and 
gentle ; laid her hand upon his arm, asked him 
to ride with her in the morning, and then to 
come to luncheon. 

He accepted for the ride, but said that, 
most unfortunately, he was engaged to lunch 
with a friend. 

" Ah !" and Miss Letty arched her pretty 
eyebrows, "I knew that when I asked you." 

" You knew !" he repeated ; ''you guessed, 
perhaps." 

" No, I knew ; but you need not ask me 
how I knew, for I am not going to tell 
you." 

As usual, he entreated, coaxed and im- 
plored, but without success. Letty only 
laughed In his face. 



NO. 200, QUEENS GATE TERRACE. 225 

''You know I would give It up if I could," 
he said. 

" Of course you would," she answered, " but 
you cannot desert old friends for new, can you?" 

When he called next morning to ride with 
her, he got a message to say she had changed 
her mind and gone shopping instead, so he 
had to spend another morning without her, 
and consequently he was not in the best of 
spirits when, shortly before two o'clock, he 
presented himself at 200, Queen's Gate 
Terrace, and asked for Mrs. Ogilvey. 

He was shown into a pretty drawing-room ; 
the light was subdued and the perfume of 
flowers was oppressive. Otway felt half- 
suffocated, and yet he had expected to find 
Mrs. Ogilvey's drawing-room dimly lighted 
and highly scented. He was left alone for 
ten minutes, and, strange to say, his thoughts 
went back, not to Letty Erskine, but to the 
woman whom he had not seen for eight 
years. He was one or two-and-twenty then 

VOL. I. Q 



2 26 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and she was, at least, five years his senior, 
and he had fancied himself In love ! How 
vividly he recalled the bitterness of his re- 
proaches when she told him she was about 
to marry the rich stockbroker, Christopher 
Ogilvey, familiarly known as '* Moneybags 
Ogilvey," and how little he had cared when, 
after a month or two, he read the announce- 
ment of the marriage In the Times. 

He had made an ass of himself while his 
fancy lasted, and Caroline was kind ; he re- 
membered the kindness well enough. The 
woman herself was very handsome; he had 
not forgotten that, either ; her figure was 
magnificent, and her voice, if he was not 
mistaken, was one of her great attractions — 
rich, soft and low. Yes, it was all three ; he 
heard it behind him now, when \}i\^. frou-frou 
of her gown over the carpet ceased. But 
her address surprised him — 

*' You have come," she said, "but why did 
you not answer my note ?" 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

A woman's folly. 

''I ANSWERED it Immediately," he said, "and 
my servant took it to the post." 

" This is very odd, for it never reached me." 
Otway thought it extremely odd. 'T must 
inquire about it," he said, ''for it was un- 
doubtedly written, and posted so far as I 
know." 

" Well, you are here, and that is the chief 
thing after all," she said, as she held out her 
pretty white hand to him a second time. 
'* Sit down and let us see what we have to 
say to one another after all these years. 
When I saw you last you were a very charm- 
ing — boy ; now, I have no doubt, you are a 
very charming man." 



2 28 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

''Charming or not, I am a man who is 
sorry to hear you are in trouble," he said, as 
he seated himself beside her on a couch. " I 
hope it is nothing very serious." 

She gave a little impatient sigh, looked at 
Otway for an instant, and then let her eyes 
fall again. "You must judge for yourself 
when I tell you about it — ^ after luncheon. 
Can you stay a little while with me ? We are 
not likely to be interrupted." 

*' Yes," he said, " I can stay." 

"How do you think I am looking?" was 
her next remark. " It is eight long years — 
long to me, at least — since you saw me 
last. Do I look much older ? You need not 
be afraid to tell me the truth." 

"There is very little change in you," he 
answered, "but," and he looked round the 
room and smiled, "you know I cannot see 
very distinctly in this light." 

"You are improved ; I have light enough 
to see that," she returned, in the same 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 229 

matter-of-fact tone she had used from the 
beginning; "but then, as I said just now, 
eight years ago you were Httle more than 
a boy. I read all about your doings in 
Stoneshire, and was disappointed when you 
gave up the contest. I said at once, ' Who 
is she ?' and before long I saw something 
about a young lady whose life you saved. Is 
she very charming ? But of course you do 
not want to be questioned about her, and 
I have other things to think of." 

Luncheon was at the moment announced, 
and Mrs. Ogilvey preceded her guest down- 
stairs. In the fuller lio^ht of the dininor-room 
he saw that she was considerably altered ; 
she had grown stouter, and her beauty now 
owed more to art than nature, paint and 
powder being liberally used. The face was 
handsome still, but it was that of a woman 
who led a restless and worried life. 

But her manner was bright and animated, 
and she made herself very agreeable, talking 



230 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

of books, music and pictures in a light and 
pleasant manner. She made more than one 
attempt to bring the conversation round to 
Otway himself, but seeing that he was not 
disposed to be communicative, she let the 
subject drop with some light remark that pre- 
vented any awkwardness. 

In his turn he tried to get her to speak of 
herself and her husband ; but, beyond the 
fact that she had no children and that Mr. 
Ogilvey was then in Paris, he learnt nothing. 
They went back to the shaded drawing-room 
as soon as luncheon was over, and when 
they were once more seated side by side, 
she laid her hand upon his arm, and looking 
into his face said, " Now, old friend, for my 
trouble." 

He thought it possible that he was about 
to be asked to help her through some money 
difficulty, but he soon found out his mistake. 
" Have you ever met or heard of Count 
Henri de Flavelle .^" she said. 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 23 1 

*' I met him about two years ago at " 

and Otway mentioned a country-house at 
which he had been staying. " Is he a friend 
of yours ?" 

" He was an intimate friend of mine ; but 
do you not know that he is dead ? He com- 
mitted suicide last autumn at Monte Carlo. 
We — my husband and I — were there at the 
time." 

" I never heard of it. I knew he was a 

reckless gambler, and also " He stopped 

short and glanced at his companion. 

"Yes ;" she said, putting her own interpre- 
tation upon his sudden pause, "he was a 
reputed * lady-killer,' as well." Then, after a 
moment or two of silence, she went on in 
a defiant voice, "He and I w^ere very inti- 
mate ; he was a constant visitor at this house, 
and I think he used to borrow money 
from my husband. But, after a time, Mr. 
Ogilvey refused to receive him any more, 
and he desired me to hold no communication 



232 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

with him. You probably guess I did not 
obey him." 

'*Yes;" Otway said. ''I thought it prob- 
able." 

''We met when we could, and w^here we 
could, and I more than once lent him 
money. It was not always easy for me 
to get a sum large enough to be of any use 
to him, but I am not easily baffled when I 
make up my mind to do a thing, and on 
several occasions I manaofed to eive him a 
tolerable amount. I can see plainly enough 
in your face what you think of all this, but it 
is quite possible that you wrong me. Henri 
and I were friends — nothing more. How- 
ever, I am not going to defend myself or to 
set up a plea of any kind ; the poor man 
is dead, and it is only since his death that 
I have had any cause to regret our intimacy. 
He had a confidential servant, who for some 
reason or other hated me, and this man is, he 
says, in possession of all his late master's 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 233 

private papers and letters. Within the past 
few weeks he has begun a system of perse- 
cution of me which threatens to become more 
than I can bear. He says he will go to my 
husband if I do not give him a large sum of 
money, and I am afraid to put myself so 
completely in his power." 

"And suppose he carries out his threat, 
and goes to your husband, what then ? Had 
this Count Henri any letters of yours ? Used 
you to correspond with him ?" 

" He had no letters of mine. Some 
communications passed between us in cypher 
■ — his to me are destroyed — on the subject of 
the loans I mentioned to you just now, and 
in one or two of those I sent to him I made 
an appointment for a meeting. The very 
last of those cyphers was written at Monte 
Carlo, a few days before he shot himself, 
and it is just possible that it was not des- 
troyed." 

" I suppose this valet of his has no key to 



234 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

the cypher — the Count would not have let 
him into the secret ?" 

" Certainly not ; if he has any of my notes 
he cannot read them, and the envelopes were 
addressed by the Count himself. I always 
had a supply of addressed envelopes by me, 
and his to me were addressed by me. We 
were very cautious on account of Mr. 
Ogilvey's prohibition." 

"Then, so far as I can see, you have 
nothing to fear. If the cypher was known to 
you and the Count only, you can let this 
fellow do his worst." 

"Ah! unfortunately it is known to one 
other : the man who taught it to me." 

"And he is ?" 

" My husband," replied Mrs. Ogilvey. 
" He gave it to me, and he can read it." 

Otway looked grave. " There is only one 
thing to be done," he said; "you must not 
let this man see that you are afraid of 
him. Do not give him any money, and 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 235 

refuse to hold any communication with him ; 
it is quite possible that a bold front will 
dismay him, and he will make up his mind 
that the papers in his possession are of no 
importance." 

"Nor are they, in one way. They prove 
that I disobeyed my husband, and gave Henri 
money that I got from Mr. Ogllvey for 
another purpose, and if he should find out 

that I deceived him " The fear of 

detection was In her voice ; the shame of 
detection was in her face, as she spoke ; and 
Otway, although he felt contempt for her 
weakness and folly, was constrained to feel 
pity as well. Detection to her meant the 
loss of her husband's trust; and yet, for the 
poor gratification of helping such a man as 
the Count, she had risked all that was most 
valuable to her in the world. 

He left his place beside her, and began to 
walk up and down the room, and the ques- 
tion he asked himself was this : " Why should 



236 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

this woman be saved ?" But the thought of 
Letty, the sweet pure girl he so passionately 
loved, softened his heart towards the unhappy 
creature who sat there before him self- 
condemned, but not guilty of aught save 
folly. He would save her if he could. 

" You despise me ! I see it in your face," 
she said, piteously, when he came back to 
her. '' But, perhaps, if you knew all, you 
would pity me a little as well. My husband 
and I have nothing in common, and he is 
very cold to me sometimes, but never 
ungenerous. But if — if I can get out of this 
scrape, I mean to turn over a new leaf — I 
do, indeed." 

" There is no way out of it, but the way I 
spoke of just now. You must put on a bold 
front. Refuse to give the man any money ; 
tell him that you know he has no letters or 
papers that can compromise you, and then 
wait for his next move. If we ascertain, 
beyond a doubt, that he has the cypher In his 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 237 

possession, we must, I suppose, buy them at 
all hazards ; but my own opinion is, that he 
has nothing to show." 

" The risk is something terrible," she said, 
as she wrung her hands together. "I lie 
awake at night and think of it, and then I 
seem to see poor Henri's face before me. 
Ah ! poor fellow, he loved me so hopelessly." 

The face of her companion grew very 
stern as she was speaking. If Letty had 
seen him then, she would never say again 
that he was always soft and yielding. " I do 
not want to hear anything about Count 
Henri," he said, shortly. 

"And I was just going to show you his 
picture," she answered. "Must you go? 
Give me another half-hour ; I feel that I have 
a great deal more to say, and one thing 
I must tell you, as it is important. Soon 
after we were married, my husband gave me 
a very beautiful and valuable diamond star ; 
it was so arranged that I could wear it either 



2^8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 



J 



as a pendant round my neck or in my hair. 
On one occasion when I wanted money for 
the Count, I had the ornament copied for 
a few p3unds in French paste, and when 
it was done I gave the real stones to Henri. 
I very often wore the sham pendant before 
Mr. Ogilvey, and he never detected anything 
wrong ; but more than three years ago I 
either lost it or it was stolen from me, and I 
am in daily dread of being asked why I 
never wear it. I dare not tell my husband 
it is gone, lest he should recover it through 
the police, and find out the imposition." 

" You say it was lost or stolen," said 
Otway. '' If stolen, of course the thief 
thought the stones were real." 

" I suspect the maid I had at the time took 
it — she did not know it was paste — -but I 
could not accuse her without lettinQ^ Mr. 
Ogilvey know, so I simply said nothing. 
She was about leaving me at the time, too." 

" And where is she now ?" 



A WOMAN S FOLLY. 239 

" She went with her new mistress, an 
officer's daughter, to India, and she is 
probably married by this, as she is very 
good-looking." 

"What was her name ?" 

" Rossitur — Bella Rossitur. She came 
from Stillingfort, in Stoneshire." 



CHAPTER XIX. 

LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 

It was past five o'clock when Otway left 
Queen's Gate Terrace. He had certainly 
not enjoyed his visit to his old love ; the 
history of her " trouble," as she called it, had 
revolted him, and the necessity he was under 
to offer worldly - wise advice went sorely 
against the grain. But he consoled himself 
by hoping that her escape, if she did escape 
the consequences of her folly, might be a 
life-long lesson to her. 

Refusing her offer to " drop " him some- 
where in her Victoria, he took a hansom as 
far as Albert Gate, and then walked down 
the Row towards Hyde Park Corner. Half 
way, he came upon Sir John Erskine, with 



LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 24 1 

Letty beside him, seated in a mail phaeton, 
which was drawn up close to the rails. 

Letty's bright eyes were roving over the 
crowd, and she did not see Otway until he 
was close beside her. 

''Ah, Otway!" cried Sir John, ''you are 
the very man we want. I was wondering 
what had become of you. Get up here and 
take the reins, will you ? I see some people 
I want to speak to over yonder, and you can 
take Letty home when she's had enough of 
this." 

Nothing loth, Otway took the vacant 
seat and the reins. " Shall we drive round ?" 
he said. 

"Certainly not," replied Letty, promptly. 
" I like to see the people. But I do not 
object to one turn ; it is rather early. I 
have not seen half-a-dozen people I know 
yet." 

Otway turned the horses into the road, and 
they were soon bowling away towards the 
VOL. L R 



242 A GAME OF CHA^'CE. 

Memorial. " Well ?" he said, looking down 
at her. 

'' Well ?" she answered, looking up at him. 
" I hope you enjoyed your luncheon with 
Mrs. Ogilvey." 

" Can it be possible," he cried, " that I 
addressed the letter that she never got to 
you ? That explains everything." 

" Except your stupidity," said Letty. " Is 
this the letter?" and she took a note from 
her pocket. " Outside is ' Miss Erskine, 
Halkin Street ;' inside you tell some Mrs. 
Ogilvey that you have not forgotten her, and 
that you will lunch with her at two o'clock. 
Who is Mrs. Ogilvey ?" 

" A lady I knew many years ago, when I 
was about two-and-twenty." 

" Is she a nice person ?" 

" I don't know," said Otway. 

"You are an old friend ; you lunched with 
her to-day, and you do not know whether she 
is nice or not. I call that absurd." 



LETTV AND HER SLAVE. 243 

" I do not admire her particularly," said 
Otway. 

" Did you ever admire her ?" 

"Very much," answered Otway, "in my 
salad days — eight years ago." 

"Eight years ago I was only ten," put in 
Letty. " And have you not seen her since ?" 

" I have not seen her since her mar- 
riage until to-day. She wrote and asked me 
to call upon her." 

" Because she is in trouble," said Letty. 
" I am sorry for the poor woman. I am 
not going to ask you what the trouble is 
because I know if I did you would tell me, 
and that would not be right." 

" I am afraid I could not tell you," Otway 
was beginning. 

" Oh, yes, you would, if I insisted ;" Letty 
interrupted, confidently; "you know you 
never refuse me anything I ask, and if I 
said I must know all about this trouble of 
your friend, ]\Irs. Ogilvey, you would tell 



2 44 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

me before we got round to the Memorial 
again !" 

"It Is very hard to refuse you anything, 
my darling," murmured Otway, tenderly, as 
he gazed with all a lover's rapture into her 
eyes. And yet, even as he said the words, 
he was conscious of a bitter stab of dis- 
appointment, for not the faintest trace of 
jealousy could he detect in her manner. A 
girl who was very much In love would surely 
show some annoyance or pique at this sud- 
den renewal of intercourse between her lover 
and his old friend. 

" You must really be more careful about 
your letters In future," Letty went on. In her 
sprightly manner, and Ignoring altogether 
the fond words just uttered in her ear. 
" Suppose an epistle, with something very 
secret in It, were to come to me by mistake, 
what would you do ? And, when men meet 
their old loves again, do they not generally 
feel a little sentimental and unhappy ? They 



LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 245 

always do in books, so if you want to be 
sentimental or unhappy about this Mrs. 
Ogilvey, I beg you will not hesitate on my 
account." 

'' As if you did not know that you are the 
only woman in the world to me," broke in 
Otway, with passionate reproach. 

" There ! Do not drive quite so fast, if 
you please. Everyone is staring at us, I 
really mean what I say. You must feel more 
for an old friend than you do for a new one. 
I know I should. Is this trouble of hers 
likely to last long ? You will have to lunch 
with her very often, I suppose ?" 

" Not oftener than I choose," Otway 
answered. 

As he was speaking, Mrs. Ogilvey drove 
past them. She bowed to Otway, and stared 
very hard at his companion. 

" Now you have seen her," he said, 
'' what do you think of her ?" 

'* She drives a very pretty pair of horses, 



246 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and she will probably known me again,'* 
replied Letty. " Did you tell her we were 
going to be married ?" 

*' Did you not desire me, on pain of your 
severe displeasure, not to tell anyone ?" 

" Certainly I did, but I never expected 
you to obey me," she returned. " I must 
say you are the most oppressively obedient 
man I ever met ; but perhaps you do not 
want people to know you are engaged ?" 

" I should like the whole world to know 
it," cried Otway ; ''that I might be envied 
by the whole word for my good fortune." 

" Then, for goodness' sake, tell the whole 
world directly," cried Letty, pettishly ; ''I 
am sure I don't care." 

*' And may I say that we are to be married 
very soon ?" 

*' If you like ; it is all the same to me. 
No, do not go round again, and do not 
draw up anywhere ; I am tired. Take me 
home ; I want to show you Jack's last letter. 



LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 247 

I had such a jolly letter from him this 
mail." 

The drawing-rooms at Halkin Street were 
empty ; Miss Lambton was out alone. Letty 
threw off her bonnet and began to fan herself. 
'' Isn't it hot.^" she said. 

'' Allow me," said Otway, as he took the fan 
from her ; but instead of using it, he put his 
arm round her and tried to draw her to him. 

''One kiss, my darling," he said. 

"No, no, no!" she cried, breaking away 
from him. " How many times must I tell 
you that I will not have any nonsense of that 
kind ? I can't think what pleasure you find 
in it. Do go away to the other end of 
the room and be sensible. You have made 
me a great deal hotter than I was before, and 
I think you ought to know by this time that 
I do not like to be kissed." 

" I know by this time that you are very 
unkind to me," he said. " You treat Orion 
better than you treat me." 



248 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

*' Now, was there ever such a man ?" cried 
Letty, appealing to the furniture. " I pro- 
mised to marry him simply because he said 
it would break his heart if I refused him, and 
yet he is not satisfied." 

She walked away and sat down, looking 
the picture of injured dignity. He followed 
much too humbly, as was his wont. '' Say 
you forgive me," he said. 

She looked up at him with a glance that 
was half-comical but wholly unresponsive to 
the appeal in his eyes. " I declare," she 
cried, " if you kneel to me I have done with 
you for evermore. Have I not told you, a 
hundred times at least, that I cannot bear to 
see a man on his knees, and yet you will do it? 
There ; go and bring me that little writing- 
case from the table yonder. Jack's letter is 
in it. Now, sit down at a respectful dis- 
tance and listen while I read." 

Mastering his discomfiture and disappoint- 
ment as best he could, Otway sat down and 



LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 249 

listened while Letty read her brother's letter 
aloud. 

As soon as she had finished, he said, " I 
knew I had heard the name Rossltur before. 
Is it not very odd ? Mrs. Ogllvey told me 
to-day that some years ago — It would be three 
or four, I suppose — she had a maid called 
Bella Rossltur, who went to India. I sup- 
pose It Is the same person ; Rossltur Is not a 
very common name." 

" Common or not, It Is a name I am very 
tired of," cried Letty. " Jack never writes 
a letter In which she Is not mentioned, and 
now your Mrs. Ogllvey knows her. Did she 
like her ?" 

" Well — not particularly, I think." 
" She Is not connected with the trouble. Is 
she ?" 

" No, not direcdy. Not at all, Indeed." 

" You look so frightened," cried Letty, 

laughing, " I believe you are afraid I am 

going to bribe you to let out Mrs. Ogilvey's 



250 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

secrets. Do you think I could not do 
it?" 

" There Is nothing In the world I would 

not do for you, Letty, If only " he 

stopped short. 

The door had opened to admit Miss 
Lambton. 

'' Here Is Aunt Louise," cried Letty. 
** Now for some tea. And what's the news, 
Auntie ?" 

" I have just met Dr. Murray and his 
bride," she said. " They did not go to the 
Lakes after all." 



C H A P T E^R X X . 

ROSSITUR AGAIN. 

A FEW days later Otway was on his way 
to call upon the Rector of Little Centre 
Bridge at the Westminster Palace Hotel 
when he met that gentleman at the entrance 
alone. 

" Coming to see me, were you ? And I 
was just going to look you up ; you are close 
by, are you not? Our [friends in Halkin 
Street have taken my wife off to shop in the 
Grove, wherever that is, and I was told I was 
not wanted." 

*' Rather hard upon you, eh ?" laughed 
Otway. "But if men will come to London 
for their honeymoons they must take the 
consequences." 



252 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" We fixed upon the Lakes, you know, but 
Mrs. Murray coaxed me to stay in London 
for a few days to see the sights ; and if a 
man does not humour his wife in the honey- 
moon, when is he to do It ?" 

•'Very true," said Otway, absently. 

'' Any time fixed for your marriage ?" in- 
quired the Rector, " I was in hopes it would 
be this summer ; I hate long engagements 
myself" 

" I do not want a long engagement," said 
Otway, "but Sir John says the marriage is 
not to be until next spring." 

" And what does Letty say ?" 

"Oh, she says nothing!" 

" Is she not looking handsome?" cried the 
Rector, enthusiastically. " I never saw such 
eyes in a woman's head ! You are a lucky 
fellow, Otway. Oh ! we go up In a lift, 
do we ? I don't know that I fancy this sort 
of thing very much myself, but I suppose 
one Q^ets used to it. You must let me brlnof 



ROSSITUR AGAIN. 2^2 

my wife to see you. She would enjoy going 
up in this thing immensely." 

"You must bring her to lunch," said 
Otw^ay. '' I should like her to see where 
I live." 

Dr. Murray spent some time examining 
the bits of fine old China and the few 
admirable pictures that adorned Otway's 
little drawing-room, and then the two men sat 
clown for a chat. 

" And have you given up all idea of enter- 
ing Parliament since we treated you so badly 
down in Stoneshire ?" the Rector asked. "In 
the mere matter of talking, our friend Sir 
John has not clone much to distinguish him- 
self, has he ? I believe in his heart he is 
longing to be back at the Chase, pottering 
about the home farm, and going into the town 
to hear the news." 

"He certainly does not care very much for 
town life," said Otway. " None of them do, 
for that matter." 



2 54 -'^ GAME OF CHANCE. 

"Oh, Letty likes it, I think." 

''Well, it's all new to her; but she 
is very fond of the country. She has 
never had a regular season before, you 
know." 

" You will give up this little nest up here 
when you marry, of course ?" 

" Yes. I am in treaty for a house she 
likes in Rutland Gate. All places are pretty 
much the same to me, but I want her to be 
pleased." 

" I am afraid you spoil her, my boy. Take 
care." 

" I feel as if I could not do half enough 
for her," cried Otway. " She is the very 
light of my life. I do not think it would be 
possible for any man to love a woman more 
than I love her, and she just likes me pretty 
well, that's all." 

" Oh, never mind ; liking is a very good 
thing to start with, and it will all come right 
by and by. But don't you give up to her 



ROSSITUR AGAIN. 255 

too much ; for my own part, I think women 
like a master." 

" My dear doctor, it is early days for you 
to have found that out," laughed Otway. 

" Oh ; I knew it years ago," replied the 
Rector. "But now I want to ask you about 
this marriage of Jack Erskine's. Sir John 
says very little, but I think he is cut up about 



it." 



" Well, you see, he wanted Jack to marry 
some girl at home, and he cannot quite take 
to the notion of a daughter-in-law he has 
never seen." 

'' And, between ourselves, Otway," said 
the Rector, " I am afraid Mr. Jack has made 
a mistake. It may turn out all right, and I 
hope it will ; but, I confess I have my 
doubts." 

'' Why ? Do you know anything of the 
young lady ; anything against her, I mean ? 
Her half-sister is married to my brother, but 
I know nothing at all about /ler.'' 



250 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

''And I know nothing actually against her, 
but not much In her favour. It so happens 
that a nephew of mine, Frank Murray, has a 
very good post In Calcutta ; he came home 
and married an uncommonly nice girl with 
some money, just before Jack Ersklne's regi- 
ment went out. Well, you know, Mrs. John 
Ersklne's father, Colonel Gordon, had a staff 
appointment In Calcutta when his daughter 
went out to him, and my nephew, Franks and 
his wife, being In the military set, saw a good 
deal of Miss Amy Gordon, and heard a great 
deal more. At that time Jack Ersklne was 
with his regiment at Lucknow, I think, and 
he did not meet her until some time after her 
campaign In Calcutta." 

'' But he knew her," said Otway, "for they 
went out In the same ship." 

" I know that ; but he had lost sight of 
her. She was very much run after In Cal- 
cutta, Frank told me, as she was pretty and 
lively ; but I hear she was such an outrageous 



ROSSITUR AGAIN. 257 

flirt that before very long, men used to say 
very hard things of her ; but still, they all 
amused themselves. It got out, after a time, 
that she was looking out for a man with 
money, and that her father was at his wit's 
end for fear she should get into some 
serious scrape. 

" Poor Sir John !" said Otway. " I hope 
he knows nothing of all this." 

" Not from me. I would not tell him for the 
world ; but you have not heard the worst yet. 
It seems this Miss Gordon brought out a very 
good-looking maid with her from England, 
and this girl, of whom, strange to say, I 
know something. Is apparently as great a 
flirt as her mistress, and the tricks these two 
used to play, Frank says, were simply dis- 
graceful. He acknowledges that he does not 
believe half the stories that were told about 
them, but those he knows to be true are quite 
bad enough. The maid used to dress up as 
the mistress, and the mistress as the maid — 

VOL. I. S 



258 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

there is a sort of likeness between them, I 
beheve — and then the maid would make a 
fool of some poor fellow, who fancied that 
Miss Gordon was in love with him, and the 
story goes that, on one occasion, Miss 
Gordon, passing herself off as Rossitur, had 
much ado to get away from some young 
fellow who wanted her — the maid, you under- 
stand — to run away with him there and then. 
My nephew says he does not believe that 
story, as Miss Gordon was always much too 
cautious to run any risk ; but it only shows 
how people have been talking about her." 

" Let us hope," said Otway, " that as she 
has married a rich man she will turn over 
a new leaf and make Jack a good wife. Do 
you know that the^maid is married also, to 
Jack's body - servant, a soldier in his regi- 
ment ?" 

" You don't say so ? Rather a come-down 
for her, I should say, after all her flirtations 
with his betters. Well, I should be sorry to 



ROSSITUR AGAIN. 259 

let my wife keep such a woman in her 
service." 

''But Letty tells me that her sister-in-law 
would not part with Rossitur on any con- 
sideration." 

" Exactly. I hope it is not wrong of me 
to say that it looks very much as if the maid 
had some hold over her mistress. I hope 
most sincerely, for Jack's sake, it is not the 
case, and that all the stories about her are 
exaggerated ; but Frank says there is no 
doubt whatsoever that Miss Gordon was very 
much in love with a remarkably handsome 
and charming young Frenchman, whom she 
used to meet in the very best set in Calcutta, 
and that she would have married him, poor 
as he v/as, if her father had not set his face 
against the match." 

" And what has become of him ?" 

" I hear he succeeded, quite unexpectedly, 
to a very fine property, shortly after Miss 
Gordon's marriage, but where he is now I do 



2 6o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

not know. My nephew says he Is as nice a 
fellow as he ever met, and extremely hand- 
some. I forget his name." 

*' I am sorry to hear all this," said Otway. 
** It does not promise well for poor Jack 
Ersklne's future happiness, and he seems so 
wrapped up In his wife." 

*' Oh ; they may get on very well. Depend 
upon It, she knows the value of her position 
as the future Lady Ersklne and mistress of 
the Chase, and she will not make a fool of 
herself." 

" But she may make her husband very 
miserable, all the same," said Otway. '' By 
the way, you said you knew something about 
that woman Rossltur. It was only a few 
days ago I heard that, just before she went 
to India, she had been maid to an old friend 
of mine." 

" She comes from Stilllngfort," said the 
Rector, " and I was curate-In-charge there a 
good many years ago. The Rosslturs are 



ROSSITUR AGAIN. 26 I 

well known in the place ; for generations, 
from father to son, they have held one of the 
largest farms from Lord Stillingfort. When 
I was there, this girl Bella was not more 
than seven or eight ; she had a sister a year 
or two older, and a baby brother ; the girls 
used to come to my school. I had not been 
In the place more than three months when 
there was a terrible scandal ! Mrs. Rossitur, 
who was a beautiful young woman, ran away 
with a man who used to come down to shoot 
at the manor — a relation of Lord Stillingfort 
— and the poor farmer was so broken-hearted 
he talked of selling the place and emigrating. 
But he stayed on, and who brought up his 
girl I don't know, for I left the place when 
Bella was about eleven or twelve. I do not 
remember her very distinctly, but she was a 
pretty child, and there was a sturdy little 
chap in the choir, a boy about fourteen or 
fifteen, who used to be always about with 
her. His father was a bailiff, or something, 



262 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

on the estate ; a man with a grand bass voice 
—he was in the choir too. I remember the 
boy very well— Httle Georgy Pottinger." 

'* You don't say so !" cried Otway. '' Why, 
that is the name of the man she has married ! 
She is Mrs. Pottinger." 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 

A MONTH passed away. Dr. Murray and 
his bride, having spent a fortnight In what 
he called " wild dissipation " In London, 
ended their honeymoon at the Lakes, and 
were now settled at home In the Rectory of 
Little Centre Bridge, and Alary Hamil- 
ton, the ex-governess of the Ladles' College, 
found herself of some importance In the 
community among whom she had been a 
nonentity before. Mrs. and Miss Dysart- 
Smlth had the pleasure of seeing all the 
visitors she received, and of hearing of all 
the Invitations that were sent to the newly- 
wedded pair. 

Mrs. Crump, of the fancy shop, who knew 



264 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

everything, and, moreover, was good at in- 
venting, declared that the Rector was quite 
another man since he married, and had 
actually been in her shop twice since he 
came home — once with his wife and again 
without her — to match some knitting-silk ; 
and it was nonsense for Mrs. Verity to be 
positive that Dr. and Mrs. Murray had not 
been invited to spend a week at Stillingfort, 
for Mrs. Crump knew it for a fact ; and 
the Rector was to preach, too, in the old 
church that had been his when he was in 
the parish as curate-in-charge. 

Little particles of this local gossip were 
blown to the Erskines in town, through the 
medium of Miss Masham's amusing letters. 
"I do not know what we should do without 
our special correspondent," Letty used to say; 
*' I like to hear what is going on at home. 
Yes, Little Centre Bridge is home, and 
always will be home to me." This clause 
was added when Otway ventured to hope 



THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 265 

that another place might be her real home 
before very long. 

" I have nothing In the world to say 
against Rutland Gate except that I hate It," 
she continued, In her pretty, aggressive way. 
"That Is, I hate having houses on each side 
of me. But It does not really matter, as I 
mean to spend nine months at least out of 
every year at the Chase." 

Otway flattered himself with the hope that 
Letty did not mean all she said ; and he con- 
tinued, with the rest of her world, to pet and 
spoil her to such an extent that she would 
have been more than mortal if she had not 
begun to imagine that her power over him 
was unlimited. But there was more beneath 
that gay, frivolous exterior than even he 
suspected, and he never guessed at the 
struggle — a struggle that ended memorably 
for both of them — that went on In her mind 
as the time fixed for her marriage drew 
near. 



266 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Comparatively speaking it was distant still, 
but now that the following March had been 
named and agreed to by Sir John, she began 
seriously to ask herself if she really cared 
enough for Otway to be his wife. It seemed 
as if she could not make up her mind about 
her feelinofs towards him ; she liked to ride 
or drive, walk or talk with him, but she 
never felt in the least angry or jealous when 
he rode or drove or talked with other women ; 
and when he became the adoring and demon- 
strative lover she was puzzled and frightened, 
and sometimes a little ashamed as well of the 
feeling of repugnance that cams upon her ! 

" And it is not that I dislike him," she 
would say to herself, " but he is too humble. 
If he would stand at one end of the room 
and order me to come to him from the other, 
it would make all the difference. He would 
soon get what he wants then ; but when he 
trots about after me, begging with his eyes, 
if not with his tongue, for a little notice, I 



THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 267 

feel SO angry I am tempted to run away and 
never to speak to him again. If he goes on 
in the same babyish manner after we are 
married something dreadful will happen ; I 
know it will ; and yet, he is so very charm- 
ing in many ways, I could love him with all my 
heart if he would but treat me a little worse." 
This was how she argued with herself day 
by day. 

It was the middle of July before Otway 
heard anything more of Mrs. Ogilvey and her 
*' trouble." He had seen her several times, 
and she said nothing had happened, and 
that she hoped to hear no more of the man 
and his threats. She introduced Otway to 
her husband, and he dined at Queen's Gate 
Terrace, and w^as present at a big "crush" 
one evening. Moreover, Mrs. Ogilvey heard 
of his engagement, and gave him very cordial 
congratulations, but he did not, in spite of 
the many hints she gave him, and the many 
opportunities that were offered to him, keep 



2 68 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Up either very familiar or very constant 
intercourse with his old friend. 

He was surprised one morning to get a 
letter from her, asking him for an appoint- 
ment at his chambers. " I have something 
to tell you," she said, *' and we might be 
interrupted here." 

Accordingly he appointed a day and an 
hour, and she was punctual to a minute. 
He had not seen her for fully a fortnight, and 
he was struck by the extraordinary change in 
her appearance. In the first place she was 
dressed entirely in black, and, as she generally 
appeared in gay colours, he scarcely recog- 
nised her at first. She was also very pale — - 
almost haggard-looking — he thought, and her 
eyes were dull and red, as if she had been 
crying. 

" I am afraid you are not very well," he 

said, kindly, as he placed a chair for her. 

''Why did you not let me come to you?" 

" I scarcely know," she answered, " except 



THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 269 

that I have a curious nervous sort of feelino- 
over me that would not allow me to speak 
freely, even in my own drawing-room. Not 
that there are spies about me," and she 
laughed rather hysterically, ''but I simply 
could not do it, that is the truth. You said 
just now you were afraid I am not well ; 
I suppose I look ill, but I feel well enough ;. 
only dazed and stupid, as if I had had a blow, 
or just escaped a great danger." 

"Has that man been persecuting you 
again ? Perhaps you had better let me take 
him in hand ; those sort of fellows always 
bully women." And then Otway was surprised 
to see the face of his companion contract as if 
from a spasm of pain ; she bit her under lip 
and held it tightly as if she were forcing back 
a cry, and two great tears suddenly rolled 
down her cheeks. 

*' You are very kind," she added, presently,, 
" but you need not take any more trouble. 
He has done his worst — his very worst." 



.270 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" I am sorry " Otway began. 

'' Oh ; he has not hurt me," she inter- 
rupted. ''At least, not as he Intended, or as 
we feared ; but he has given me a wound 
that has cut me to the very heart, and taught 
me a lesson I hope never to forget." She 
sat up in her chair as she spoke, with a 
sudden lightening of the gloom upon her 
face, but she looked angry, hurt and mortified 
all at once. 

** But I must not stay here too long," she 
continued ; "and it is but fair to you to tell 
you all. You are aware that for some time 
after his first threats I heard nothing of the 
man, and I hoped my refusal to treat with 
him had silenced him ; but, about ten days 
ago, he called at Queen's Gate Terrace and 
asked to see me. I refused. Then he wrote 
a most Insolent letter, and threatened, if I 
did not at once comply with his demand and 
send him a large sum of money, to communi- 
cate with Mr. Ogilvey. It was in this 



THE LETTERS IN CVPHER. 271 

letter he let me know, for the first time, that 
the papers in his possession were my letters 
in cypher to his late master. I sent no reply 
as you advised, but I confess I waited in an 
agony of suspense for his next move. He 
soon wrote again, more insolently than before. 
If he did not receive five hundred pounds 
for the cyphers he would give them to Mr. 
Ogilvey himself without delay. I replied 
that I did not believe he had either letters 
or papers of any kind of mine in his posses- 
sion. He wrote again, offering to show me 
the letters in presence of any friend I chose 
to name. I made no reply. Then he began 
to hang about the house for a couple of days, 
and once, when Mr. Ogilvey and I were 
getting into the carriage on our way to a 
dinner - party, he spoke to me and uttered 
some insolent threat. My husband threatened 
in turn to give him in charge, thinking, I 
believe, that he was drunk, and he went 
away, looking terribly angry and vindictive. 



272 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

The next day he made no sign, but the day- 
following, as I was dressing to go out, a 
message came from my husband to say that 
he wanted to speak to me in the library. I 
went down at once, feeling that all was over, 
and that nothing short of a miracle could 
save me now, and the bitterness of knowing 
that Count Henri, whom I had trusted so im- 
plicitly, had died, leaving me in this wretch's 
power, added tenfold to my misery. But a 
worse bitterness was in store. When I went 
into the room, I found my husband seated 
at the table, looking pale and angry, and 
opposite to him Count Henri's valet, looking 
malicious and triumphant. He had a packet, 
tied with ribbon, in his hand. It was not 
large, but it struck me at the time that I had 
never written enough letters to his master 
to make a packet of even that moderate size. 
My husband went into the matter at once. 
* This man,' he said, ' the servant of the late 
Count Henri de Flavelle, who shot himself 



THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 273 

at Monte Carlo ' — as if I did not know it 
already — 'says he has lately been in commu- 
nication with you about certain letters which, 
according to him, were written by you in 
cypher to his late master, and that you re- 
fused to buy them at any price. You may 
suppose that I was very glad to hear you 
had refused to treat with him, but, nothing 
daunted, he now comes to me, and offers 
them at a certain price ; if I refuse to 
give it, he threatens to publish them and 
ruin you. If you really kept up a private 
correspondence with the Count, I do not see 
that it matters very much to either of us 
whether the letters are made public by him 
or by me, but perhaps you will be good 
enough to examine them with me in this 
man's presence. I think I can tell whether 
they were written by you or not.' And by 
that I knew he remembered that he had 
taught me the cypher to which he had the 
key. I shall never forget what it cost me to 

VOL. I T 



2 74 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

appear calm and unconcerned, but, with ruin 
staring me In the face, I said, ' Yes ; there Is 
only one cypher I can write ; the one you 
yourself taught me, and you have the key.' 
'And perhaps I shall use It, too,' he replied. 
' Now then,' he added to the man, * open 
that packet of yours, and let me examine 
It.' The man untied the ribbon. About a 
dozen letters fell out upon the table, and one 
by one he opened them and laid them before 
my husband. I sat still, looking on. Some- 
thing told me they were not mine ; and If 
not mine, whose ? ' Look here, Caroline,' 
my husband said at last, ' I do not know this 
cypher ; It Is not the one I taught you.' I 
got up and looked over his shoulder, but a 
glance was enough ; not one of those two or 
three dozen letters had been written by me. 
I took up one of them and opened the sheet. 
A small enclosure fell out. It was a note not 
In cypher, and was to the effect that the 
writer was tired of that mode of correspon- 



THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 275 

dence, and would not use it any more. 
There was no address and no date, and it 
was signed, ' Ever yours, Estelle.' Imagine, 
if you can, my feelings when it was all over, 
and the man and his precious papers went 
away and left me alone with my husband. 
*You were very wise, Caroline,' he said, 'not 
to give that man money. If he can find 
Estelle, let him levy black-mail upon her.' 
That was all he said, and he has not 
mentioned the subject since. I suppose," 
she added, after a pause, '' that I ought to 
rejoice over my escape, and I do so — some- 
times ; but it kills me to think that the man 
for whom I did and risked so much was 

not " Her voice broke, and she burst 

into tears. 

" Good heavens !" thought Otway, as 
he watched her, '' what incomprehensible 
creatures women are ! I believe this one 
would have suffered less if her correspon- 
dence with that worthless Count Henri had 



276 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

been laid before her husband, than she 
suffers from the discovery of Estelle !" 

He let her cry on for, to tell the truth, he 
did not feel In the mood to offer consolation ; 
and presently, ashamed of her agitation, she 
dried her eyes and began to talk on in- 
different subjects. He listened courteously, 
as in duty bound ; but, at length, just as he 
was becoming impatient and wondering how 
long she meant to stay, he heard steps and 
voices on the stairs ! Surely it was Sir John 
Erskine who was speaking; and was it — could 
it be possible — ? But no ; the second voice 
was also that of a man, and he was simply 
pointing out the way to the visitor. But 
before Otway had time for any more con- 
jectures, and as Mrs. Ogilvey was in the 
act of drawing on her long gloves, the door 
opened and Sir John Erskine appeared. 

''Oh! I beg your pardon!" he said, "I 
was told you were alone." 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE STREET BRAWL. 

*' I NEVER was SO surprised In my life ! Never ! 
If It had been any other man but Otway ;" 
so said Sir John, when, not for the first time 
by any means, he described the scene In 
his future son-in-law's chambers to Miss 
Lambton. 

It was a quiet evening In Halkin Street ; 
the ladles had no engagement, Otway had 
made the fourth at dinner, and he was now 
with Letty In the smaller drawing-room. 
She had been singing to him, and they were 
now having what was, for them, quite a 
serious talk. 

"I went In," Sir John continued, "ex- 
pecting to find my gentleman alone, and 



278 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

there he was with a handsome woman ; a 
monstrous handsome woman dressed in black. 
'And is she a specimen of your clients?' I 
said to him as soon as she was gone. Then 
he told me who she was— the wife of Ogilvey, 
the millionaire. Otway knew her before she 
was married, and she has been in a muddle 
of some kind, and he has been helping her. 
He's as good a fellow as ever lived, and 
I wish Letty were a litde fonder of him. 
There are times when I think this marriaee 
is a mistake ; but if I say a word to her 
about breaking it off, she flares up, and 
asks me if she did not say, 'yes,' with her 
eyes open ? But I say, what is the use of a 
girl having her eyes open if her heart is 
shut ?" 

Otway, as it happened, went home that 
night as happy as a king. Letty had never 
been half as sweet or as kind, and during the 
first part of the evening she had neither 
teased nor snubbed him, and he had abstained 



THE STREET BRAWL. 279 

from those demonstrations of affection she so 
unaffectedly disHked. 

He told her all about Mrs. Ogilvey's visit 
to his chambers, and of Sir John's sudden 
appearance, but Letty had had the story first- 
hand from her father, so it fell rather flat. 
'* I tried very hard to do my part, and feel 
madly jealous, as the heroine of a book 
always does, when the handsome rival is 
found with her lover, but it was all to no 
use," Letty said. 

One of her hands was lying passive in 
Otway's close clasp. " I am afraid there 
must be something very wrong about me," 
she went on, "or else I am very sensible, 
for I should not care if you had dozens 
of the handsomest and most fascinating 
women in England in your chambers every 
day, one after the other. I could see that 
papa was disgusted with me. Such a noble 
opportunity for a scene, and I made nothing 
of it. I have evidently no dramatic instinct." 



2 8o A GAME OF CHANCE. 

*' You know you need not be jealous of 
me ; that Is the true reason," said Otway, 
fondly. 

" But I do not know anything about it. 
You tell me so, and I take no trouble to put 
you to the test. But I am sure it is much 
better for people not to feel deeply. It 
seems to wear them out. There is Jack, 
now ; I can see from his letters that he is 
terribly jealous of Amy. It comes out in 
everything he says, poor dear, and do you 
suppose it makes him happier.^" 

*' But to love his wife makes him happier. 
I should be madly jealous of you if you gave 
me cause; but still, I should be much happier 
than if I had never known you." 

" Should you indeed ? I think it is a great 
mistake to be wrapped up in any one," said 
this young and untried philosopher. " But 
I must tell you, candidly, that I think for a 
man of your experience — I suppose you have 
experience — you make a great many mistakes 



THE STREET BRAWL. 28 1 

about me. I am not going to tell you what 
they are, for I hope you will find them out 
for yourself some day. It is not for a man 
to learn from a foolish, ignorant girl ! Oh, 
yes ; I am both foolish and ignorant, but I 
know what I like." 

" So do I," said Otway, raising the little 
hand he held and pressing it passionately to 
his lips. " I should like life to be one long 
summer's day ; and I should like to lie at 
your feet and look into your eyes and tell you 
how I loved you." 

'' But unless you chained me down you 
would not get me to sit still to be worshipped 
in that ridiculous fashion," cried Letty. " You 
might as well be that Pagan god — was he a 
god, by the way ? — who put on woman's 
clothes and spun the distaff. I should 
simply hate you if you were always lying 
about at my feet !" 

But in spite of these very emphatic pro- 
tests, she was more loving and tender that 



282 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

evening than he had ever known her, and he 
went back to his bachelor flat feeling that 
fate had been very kind to him. His had 
been a fairly smooth and prosperous life up 
to that time ; but still, he had never looked 
upon himself as either specially fortunate or 
specially happy ; and without defining his 
position to himself in actual words, he might 
be said, during the past half-dozen years of 
his life, to be a man who was waiting for 
something to happen that never happened, 
or to find something that was not to be found. 
He was not obliged to work for a living, 
but he qualified himself to work successfully ; 
and then, when he might have made a 
position for himself, and perhaps a name 
also, he suddenly stopped short and allowed 
others to get before him ; others, he said, 
who wanted success more than he. 

He was never absolutely idle, for his mind 
was not a frivolous one ; and, moreover, he 
was somewhat disposed to take life seriously; 



THE STREET BRAWL. 283 

he was neither decidedly of an imaginative or 
poetical turn of mind, nor yet was he deci- 
dedly practical ; but he had an uncomfortable 
trick of wishing that things that pleased and 
charmed him were useful as well. Hence, we 
may infer, that he was not a true artist. Had 
he been born poor he would probably have 
done some excellent work in the world ; and, 
from his equable temper and genial manner, 
no one would have suspected him of not find- 
ing life inordinately agreeable. How sweet 
it could be made by the subtle magic of a 
woman's eyes, he learned when, yielding to 
the solicitations of political friends — although 
he was by no means an ardent politician him- 
self — he consented to stand for Stoneshire in 
the Liberal interest, and met Letty Erskine. 
Then he decided, as many a sensible man, 
as well as many a fool, had decided before, 
that he had found his true mission in life — 
the philosopher's stone that turned every- 
thing bare and ignoble to gold! He would 



284 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

marry the woman he loved if he could win 
her heart — have children about him — enter 
public life, if another opportunity presented 
itself, and do as much in his generation as 
possible, by way of thank-offering, we may 
suppose, for his great happiness. A low 
and paltry ambition, some would say; but 
do not those who aim low sometimes hit the 
clouds ? 

Philanthropy and the exercise of it, as 
Otway had seen it, had not hitherto attracted 
him ; but it might be possible, he thought, for 
him to strike out some method which would be 
free from all the objectionable cant and hum- 
bug that so disgusted him. But, at present, 
all schemes and desires were in abeyance, for 
he could not flatter himself that the founda- 
tion stone of his future happiness was laid, 
or, in other words, that Letty's heart was 
won ; his patience — what might be called his 
subservient devotion, seemed all thrown away, 
but still he persevered. 



THE STREET BRAWL. 285 

On his way home that night, he came sud- 
denly and unexpectedly upon that vulgar,, 
brutal, and not uncommon sight in London, 
a street brawl. If he had gone direct to his 
flat in Members' Mansions he would have 
missed It ; but, tempted by the extreme 
beauty of the night, he passed his own door, 
and strolled on towards Westminster. He 
had just reached Broad Sanctuary w^hen the 
noise of angry voices reached him, and 
presently, at some distance in front, he saw 
a group of struggling men. 

A faint cry for help rose distinctly twice or 
thrice above the angry voices and the thud of 
blows. Otway began to run, and a young 
fellow who had been keeping pace with him, 
step for step, on the other side of the street,, 
set off too. But before they reached the spot 
the brawd was over; a cry of "police" had 
frightened the roughs, and they dispersed in 
all directions at full speed. 

But, as it happened, they were scared by a 



2 86 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

false alarm ; there were no police visible, 
and Otway, and the young man, who had 
also been startled by the cries for help, 
halted breathless beside the prostrate and 
apparently lifeless body of a woman. 

" Poor creature! Have they killed her?" 
said Otway. 

"The cowardly ruffians," cried his com- 
panion, " I wish I had been up in time." 
Something provincial in the youth's accent — 
he did not look more than one or two-and- 
twenty — struck Otway, and he looked up at 
him. 

" I am afraid," he said, " you do not know 
much of the London rough if you expect to 
find him anything but a coward." 

Then they stooped and examined the 
woman ; she was bleeding from a wound on 
the temple, and she had either fainted, or 
been struck down insensible. 

'' We cannot do anything for her, poor 
creature, w^ithout help," said Otway. 



THE STREET BRAWL. 287 

"And here come two policemen at last," 
said his companion, ''but I could carry her 
myself if f knew where to eo to." 

When the woman had been taken to the 
nearest hospital, and the men who had seen 
the fight, and been first on the spot, had 
given all the information in their power to 
the officials, they found themselves once more 
in the street together. 

" It is almost too late," said Otway, " to 
ask you to come home with me for some 
refreshment, but my rooms are not far 
away." 

The young man thanked him, but declined. 
'' I must get back to my own diggings," he 
said. He took off his hat, ruffled up his 
thick, fair brown hair, and Otway w^as struck 
by the remarkable beauty of his features, as 
well as by the grace and symmetry of his tall, 
robust figure. 

" I am afraid she will die, poor soul !" he 
said, "and perhaps it is the best thing that 



288 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

can happen to her. She had a wedding-ring 
on her finger, did you notice ?" 

"It was probably her husband who struck 
her," said Otway. " Good-night ;" and he 
held out his hand. '' I did not catch your 
name just now, in the police office, he added, 
*' nor your address. My name is Otway, 
and I live in Members' Mansions, Victoria 
Street." 

'*And mine is Charles Rossitur, at your 
service. I am lodging in Vauxhall Bridge 
Road at present, but my home is at Stilling- 
fort in Stoneshire. Good-night." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

MRS. FORSTER's concert. 

''And where are we going to-night? I for- 
get," Otway asked. As usual, he was dining 
in Halkin Street ; Sir John was down at the 
House, and Otway was to accompany the 
two ladies to some evening festivity. 

'' We are going to Mrs. Forster's concert 
in Grosvenor Place." 

" Does anyone know why people give con- 
certs r Otway asked again. 

" To please people who love music, I 
suppose," Letty answered. 

"Oh, no! If that was the object they 
would not ask twice as many as their rooms 
will hold, and oblige them to listen to third- 
rate amateurs murdering good music." 

VOL. I. U 



290 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

''A hint to me," said Letty. "You need 
never ask me to sing to you again." 

'' I wish I had a chance of hearing you 
to-night ; you know I never tire of Hstening 
to you, but I cannot take the same Interest In 
Mrs. or Miss Brown, Jones and Robinson." 

'* But you are bound to admire Lady Judith 
Forster, for she can sing almost as well as a 
professional. We met her the other day, you 
remember, at the Botanic Fete, and you said 
she was very handsome." 

"You mean that tall, dark girl, with the 
fine eyes and the Jewish nose ? Yes, she Is 
handsome ; and she sings, does she ?" 

" She Is down for a duet with the man who 
wrote that song you like so much — ' The 
sigh of the west wind.' He calls himself 
' Guy Montague,' and Mrs. Forster would 
not tell me his real name. The Stilllngforts 
have taken him up ; Lady Judith is their 
daughter, and her aunt, Mrs. Forster, Is going 
to bring him out at her concert." 



MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 29 1 

'' It is quite a little romance," said Otway. 
'' I wonder what he is like. A clever-look- 
ing, ugly little man, in spectacles, and with 
wild hair, I say." 

"Mrs. Forster told me he was remarkably 
handsome," said Miss Lambton; ''and that 
if she had an only daughter she would not 
throw her too much in his way." 

''And the Stillingforts are so proud," said 
Letty. " Regular old-fashioned Tories, papa 
says ; worse than he is himself." 

"And, if I am not much mistaken," said 
Otway, "their daughter has a will of her 
own ; so let us hope that Mr. Guy Montague 
is not too fascinating." 

"Aunt Louise," said Letty, suddenly, "I 
forgot to tell you that Herbert came across 
young Rossitur last night." 

"And who is young Rossitur, my dear? 
Do I know him ?" 

"You do not know him, but we think he 
must be the brother of Bella Rossitur, Amy's 



292 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

maid, who married Pottinger, Jack's servant, 
you know. He says he comes from Stilling- 
fort." 

"And he is one of the handsomest and 
finest men I ever saw," said Otway. '' If his 
sister is at all like him, I am not surprised 
that she has turned some heads out in India. 
Oh ! must we be going ? I suppose I cannot 
hope for a seat next to you, my dearest ?" he 
whispered to Letty, as he put on her cloak. 

"That depends," she answered, laughing. 
" I think you will probably spend the evening 
standing in the door-way of the concert-room, 
and in the dim distance you will be consoled 
now and then by a peep at the top of my 
head." 

And that was exactly what happened. 
They were a little late ; the room was nearly 
full, and Otway had the pleasure of seeing 
Miss Lambton and her niece conveyed round 
to two vacant seats at the side of the room 
farthest from the door, close to which, as 



MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 293 

Letty had foretold, he took up his discon- 
solate stand. 

There was a duet for violin and piano 
being performed when they arrived, and then 
Lady Judith Forster came forward and sang 
a solo in a rich contralto voice. She was a 
grand-looking young woman, but Otway did 
not admire her style ; the beauty of her face 
and figure was striking, but the former was 
rather too bold, and the latter too massive, to 
please the man who had found his ideal in 
Letty's slight, graceful, girlish loveliness. But 
' for all that, he could not help looking with a 
certain amount of admiration at the dark, 
flashing eyes, the finely-moulded throat and 
bust, and round, white arms of Lord Stllling- 
fort's only daughter, and he found himself, 
moreover, waiting with some impatience for 
the appearance of Mr. Guy Montague. 

The duet between him and Lady Judith 
was the last item but one on the first part of 
the programme, and Otway made up his 



294 ^ GAME OF CHANCE. 

mind not to move until it was over. There 
was some clapping of hands when Lady 
Judith appeared for the second time, but the 
applause was evidently meant less for her 
than for encouragement to the man by whom 
she was led forward. More than one 
whispered comment upon their good looks 
was exchanged as they ranged themselves 
side by side and prepared to sing, and Otway 
looked and looked again, bewildered ! 

Where had he seen that handsome young 
giant before, with the well-knit, pliant figure ; 
the light brown hair curling all over his head, 
and those large, deep, dark-blue eyes ? The 
voice that came from the beautifully cut lips 
was one of the sweetest and most ravishing 
Otway had ever heard, but the song passed 
almost unheeded, so absorbed was he in 
watching the singer, who was no other than 
the man who had run with him to the rescue 
of the poor woman the night before — Charles 
Rossitur, of Stillingfort ! 



MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 295 

When the duet was finished, Otway left 
the concert-room ; he was bewildered by the 
surprise of finding his acquaintance of the 
night before in Guy Montague, the young 
musician whose name was in every mouth, 
who had thrown such impassioned fervour 
into his song with Lady Judith that it was 
no wonder some among the audience looked 
at one another and smiled. 

" There w^ould be nothing strange in it," 
Otway said to himself, as he made his way 
into a dimly-lighted room, that looked like a 
small library or study, " if I did not happen to 
know something of his belongings. Would 
Lady Judith Forster sing with him in public 
if she knew that his sister was a lady's maid 
and the wife of a soldier in a dragoon regi- 
ment ? I fear it would take a Radical like 
myself to bridge over that social river," he 
continued, as he went out through an open 
French window, upon a dark and temptingly 
cool balcony. " If I were beside Letty I 



296 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

might endure another hour of that atmos- 
phere, but without her I have had enough. 
I wonder what she thinks of Mr. Guy 
Montague ?" He Hghted a cigarette, took 
possession of one of the cane lounging-chairs 
he found outside, and smoked peacefully for 
about ten minutes ; then he heard the door 
of the room behind him open and close, and 
the rustle of a woman's dress. Presently she 
spoke. 

" No ; not out there ; we might be over- 
looked. This is much safer. No one will 
think of coming in here, and we can get 
back to the others before you have to sing 
again." 

"By Jove!" said Otway, "I wish I was 
out of this ! How can I let them know I am 
here?" It was not possible without making 
a scene, so he remained quiet. He seemed 
to know by intuition who the woman was, 
and also the man, who answered her in that 
tender, thrilling voice. 



MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 297 

'' My queen !" he said. " How can I ever 
thank you ?" 

After that no loud word was spoken, but 
the murmur of the voices never ceased, and 
had Otway been able to look into the room, 
he would have seen the head of Lord 
Stillingfort's lovely daughter resting upon 
the shoulder of Farmer Rossitur's handsome 
son. It was the old, old story that has 
been told so many hundred times, and that 
will be told many hundred more, as long as 
the world lasts, and men and women have 
eyes to see and hearts to feel. The daughter 
of one of the proudest men in England had 
given her love to the son of a man whose 
ancestors had for generations earned their 
bread by the labour of their hands ; and, 
moreover, they were men who had known the 
ups and downs of fortune, but who had, 
through all reverses, been honest, sturdy 
Englishmen, part of the veritable back-bone 
and sinew of the country. 



298 A GAME OF CHA^XE. 

And what was the inequaHty of birth In a 
man so well favoured by nature as Charles 
Rossitur ? He was handsome, manly, gifted ; 
and, with his voice and appearance, one might 
excuse the absence of the repose that marks 
the caste of Vere de Vere. But what chance 
had he of winning this daughter of a hundred 
earls ? Mentally, Otway decided that he 
had none ; and then he remembered what 
Dr. Murray had told him about the young 
man's mother ; how she had left her husband 
and children with a man who was nearly 
related to the father of this beautiful Lady 
Judith, and brought ruin and disgrace upon 
a happy home. Did Charles Rossitur know 
this pitiful story, he wondered. 

Yes. Charles Rossitur knew it vaguely — 
Lady Judith did not know it at all, and 
neither Rossitur nor the girl knew that, at 
that very moment in the accident ward of a 
London hospital, the outcast mother of that 
handsome and gifted man lay dying ! And 



MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 299 

she, poor creature, would never know that 
one of the two men who came to her rescue, 
as she lay bleeding and senseless in the street 
in the dead of night, was the son upon whose 
face her eyes had never rested since he was 
a toddling baby at her knee. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 

It was Christmas week and real Christmas 
weather. The water meadows outside Little 
Centre Bridge were frozen, the Ice was firm 
and smooth, and everyone had gone skating 
mad. There had been a succession of 
visitors at the Chase for a month or more, 
and the house was full now, and would re- 
main so until the middle of January. The 
end of that month would see the Ersklnes 
again in town for the meeting of Parliament 
and Letty's marriage, which was fixed to take 
place directly after Easter, and Easter fell 
early that year. 

Otway was at the Chase for Christmas as 
a matter of course, and his brother and sister- 



OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 301 

in-law — the latter, It will be remembered, was 
the half-sister of Jack Erskine's wife — had 
paid a long visit. They were about to leave 
England and settle in Florida, in America. 
Mrs. Tom Otway was not very strong ; the 
climate of Florida was said to be the very 
thing for her, and her husband said they 
would be able to "push their boys;" a feat 
less hard to accomplish there than in over- 
crowded England. 

Tom Otway was charmed with Letty, and 
Eetty was charmed with him ; she could not 
understand why Herbert was so sentimental 
and yielding, when his brother was so prac- 
tical and obstinate, and it did not occur to 
her that she had never, so to speak, seen the 
real Herbert yet ; he had disappeared for a 
time under the overwhelming waters of a 
great passion for a beautiful, whimsical girl, 
whose coldness, tempered by rare fits of 
sweetness and gentleness, nearly drove him 
wild. 



302 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

Mrs. Tom Otway had naturally a great 
deal to say for her half-sister Amy, but the 
only photograph she had to show gave a 
very poor Impression of her to her new 
relations. " It is simply not even like her!" 
Mrs. Tom declared. " She has the most 
lovely complexion and beautiful hair, and 
this thing makes her look black and ugly. 
I have never seen a really good photograph 
of her. But you must all come out and pay 
us a visit in Florida, some day ; you, and 
Herbert, and Jack, and Amy. It will be 
delightful." 

This was a favourite project of Mrs. Tom's, 
and she was also never tired of telling Letty 
that "Tom " thought his brother very much 
changed. 

'' Tom says he used to be the most obsti- 
nate, masterful and self-willed man alive, but 
you seem to have made a lamb of him. Tom 
is amused to see how he obeys you, and how 
afraid he is of vexing you, or crossing you in 



OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 303 

any way." And Letty, as she listened, would 
put up her pretty lip, and think to herself 
how much nicer It would be to follow than 
to lead. She was very tired of ruling over 
a kingdom in which there was never any 
rebellion. 

When the Otways went away. Lord and 
Lady Stilllngfort and their daughter came 
for a few days, and Otway had an oppor- 
tunity of studying Lady Judith. He had 
never told anyone, not even Letty, so sacred 
In his eyes was the love secret he had sur- 
prised, of the scene that had taken place in 
the library at Mrs. Forster's, the night of the 
concert. And apparently nothing had come 
of it. He and Rossitur were called upon to 
give evidence at the inquest upon the poor 
woman who had been found by them half- 
dead in Broad Sanctuary. 

Otway, on that occasion, had been struck 
by the young musician's manner ; he had 
not the slightest clue to the identity of the 



304 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

woman, the police had not been able to 
unearth her history for more than a twelve 
month back, and the son was wholly uncon- 
scious when, with Otway, he contributed to 
the expenses of her funeral, that she was 
his own miserable, disgraced mother. By 
all the laws that govern sensational romance, 
he ought, by some subtle Intuition, to have 
guessed who she was ; but, unfortunately. It 
was not so ; and It was nothing but his fine, 
highly-strung, imaginative and sensitive tem- 
perament that brought tears to his fine eyes, 
and a quiver to his mobile mouth, when the 
story of the dead woman's wretched life, as 
far as it was known, was related to him. 

It was specially Interesting to Otway to 
hear how freely Lady Judith spoke of the 
young musician to him and Letty during 
their walks and rides together at the Chase. 

'' We have a musical genius at Stllllng- 
fort," the girl said. " Charles Rossltur. He 
has published several songs under the nom 



OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 305 

de plume of Guy Montague. I tell him he 
ought to put his own name, but he says 
people would think nothing of him if they 
knew he was only Charles Rossitur, the 
farmer's son. His father is one of papa's 
tenants, but he is not a nice old man. He 
hates us for some reason or other, and papa 
says he Is a terrible Radical. But you are 
a Radical, are you not, Mr. Otway ?" 

" But not a terrible one, I hope." 

" I think I must be one too," the young 
lady w^ent on, "for I do not care what people 
are if they are handsome and clever ; and 
Charlie Rossitur is just like a Greek god — 
not that I ever saw one — he is so beautiful. 
But you must have seen him, both of you, at 
my aunt's concert ?" 

Otway thought of the scene in the library, 
and smiled. '' I thought he was one of 
the handsomest men I had ever seen," he 
said. 

"There, now!" cried Lady Judith, with a 
VOL. I. X. 



306 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

rush of colour over her face, '' I am glad 
other people see it too. You must hear him 
play the organ in our church, when you come 
CO see us It is something too beautiful to 
listen to him. We have a very fine organ at 
the Park, and when he came from Germany 
— he studied there for three years — I made 
papa let me have some lessons." 

"So," thought Otway, "that was how it 
began." 

" I am surprised that he is satisfied to 
stay in a little place like Stillingfort," said 
Letty. 

Again the wave of colour passed over 
Lady Judith's face. *' It is his home," she 
said, quite softly, ''and he is fond of the 
place. But I am sorry sometimes he stays,' 
she added, presently, in a different tone, *' for 
he cannot associate pleasantly with all the 
farmers and people about, and our set look 
down upon him. It makes me so angry 
sometimes to see young men, who can only 



OTWAV OBEYS ORDERS. 307 

ride and shoot, taking no notice of him, or, 
what is worse, snubbing him ! Papa allowed 
us to ask him to the Park once or twice 
when we had people staying with us, and I 
was ashamed of the way the men treated him. 
The women were civil enough," she added, 
with an angry little laugh, "but that was 
because he is so handsome. It was not as 
trying for him, poor fellow, at Aunt Forster's, 
for people did not know who he was." 

One day, w^hen she was running on as 
usual about the handsome organist, Letty, 
somewhat to Otway's surprise, asked her 
point blank if she knew anything of his 
sisters. 

" Alice lives at home with her father," 
Lady Judith answered, "and I think Bella, 
the other one, is married abroad." 

"She is lady's maid to my brother's wife, 
in India," Letty replied, "and she is married 
to a soldier in my brother's regiment." 

" Is that really true ?" Lady Judith cried ; 



308 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

and this time it was not a tinge of colour that 
rose and passed quickly away, but her whole 
face and throat grew scarlet. 

" Perfectly true," answered Letty ; ** and it 
is really quite curious the number of times 
we have heard of these Rossiturs since Jack 
first mentioned his wife's maid. I dare say 
she will be here with them some day, when 
Jack and Amy come home." 

'' Have you noticed," said Letty to her 
lover, a few days later, " that Lady Judith 
has never mentioned the fascinating organist 
since I told her his sister was Amy's maid .'*" 

" 1 believe she Is over head and ears In 
love with him," said Otway, ''and that her 
friends are as blind as moles not to see what 
Is going on." 

'' She will never marry him ; she Is much 
too proud." 

"Then she ought not to break his heart." 

" Do men's hearts ever break ?" 

" Mine would if you threw me over." 



OTWAY OBFA'S ORDERS. 309 

'* Suppose I try the experiment ? To tell 
you the truth, I am getting " 

" Too fond of me, I hope, to be so cruel." 

" Not at all. Tired of you was what I was 
going to say." 

" Oh, Letty ! My love ! My darling !" 

"Yes, honestly and truly. I said to myself 
only this morning, and very seriously too, ' I 
am getting tired of Herbert ; there is no 
variety in him. He hung about me yester- 
day ; he will hang about me to-day ; and 
to-morrow will find him hanging still.' " 

" What can I do when I love the very 
ground you walk on ?" 

"I am sorry for the ground if it bores it 
as much as it does me." 

" My darling, say you do not mean it ! No. 
It is of no use for you to laugh at me. Here 
I kneel at your feet until you say you care 
just a little." 

" And will you go, then, and not come 
back for two hours ?" 



3IO A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" I promise not to come back until you bid 
me." 

'' Well, then — I do care just a little ; but 
I very much dislike that trick you have 
of falling on your knees before me every 
moment. Now go !" 

And he went. 

But an hour had not passed before she 
was looking for him everywhere. " Herbert ! 
Herbert ! Has anyone seen Mr. Otway ?" 

He was soon found when she wanted him, 
and he came to her with a radiant face. 

" You look as delighted as Orion does 
when he is coming for a walk," she said. 
'' I have such charming news for you. Papa 
has just heard from Arthur Filmer — he is in 
Jack's regiment, you know. He has arrived 
in England on sick leave, and he wants to^ 
know if he can come here for a few days. Is 
not that delightful ? He will tell us all about 
Jack !" 

But Otway did not reply. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

LETTY GIVES HER OPINION. 

Bur, happily for Otway's peace of mind, 
Arthur Filmer, when he came, showed no 
decided incHnation to fall in love with his old 
playfellow Letty. He had heard of her en- 
gagement from Jack, and he made Otway's 
acquaintance with such evident pleasure, that 
the latter could not but join the rest of the 
family in their cordial welcome to the young 
soldier. Letty's pleasure in his society was 
frank and unaffected, but even her lover's 
watchful eyes could find nothing in her 
manner to supply food for jealousy. 

Filmer's eyes were watchful also, but it 
was not until he had been a week at the 
Chase that he began to suspect that Letty 



312 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

was not, by any means, as devotedly in love 
with her future husband as he was with her ; 
and, giving much thought to his discovery, he 
fell to wondering why she should marry a 
man she did not particularly care for. Had 
Filmer himself been of a different stamp, the 
next question would probably have been, 
*' Would it be possible for her to like some 
other man better ?" But he was not given to 
covet the goods that would not by fair means 
fall to his share ; and, conscious that Letty 
was not for him, he did not allow himself 
the luxury of falling in love ; yet, at the 
same time, he knew full well that had there 
been no Herbert Otway in the way, that 
bright winsome face would have done its 
appointed work upon him fast enough. 

Not being able to indulge himself in one 
way, he felt that he must do so in another, 
so he set himself to find out why she was 
apparently so indifferent to her lover. It 
happened that Otway had to go to town on 



LETTY GIVES HER OPINION. ^I^ 

business soon after Christmas ; during his 
absence Letty and Filmer were very much 
thrown together, and, one afternoon, while 
they were out riding, he boldly attacked her 
on the subject. 

" You may say what you please," he said, 
" but you cannot deceive me ; you are not 
what I call in love with him, and I am afraid 
you will both be very unhappy." 

*' But if he is satisfied, it is all right," Letty 
answered. " I like him very much, and if I 
do not tear my hair, and turn my face to the 
wall, and weep while he is away from me for 
a few days, I think I ought to be compli- 
mented for my good sense, instead of being 
scolded." 

" No one wants you to tear your hair, and 
behave like a maniac," replied Arthur, "but 
surely there is something between the cold- 
ness of an icicle and the fury of a lunatic. I 
have watched you when you get letters from 
him, and they might be from — well, from 



314 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

me, or your father, or Jack, for all you seenr 
to care." 

'* I think, oil the whole, I prefer Jack's 
letters," she answered. " They are less — 
what shall I say? — less monotonous. I know 
exactly what Herbert's are before I open 
them." 

'' I wish you would tell me why you are 
going to marry him," Fllmer broke In, 
impatiently. 

"Because I am! There Is a woman's 
reason for you, and now I forbid you to talk 
about him any more. Sufficient for the day, 
yoii know !" and she gave him a saucy look. 
"And I want to hear something more about 
Jack and Amy. What were you saying to 
Aunt Louise about her last night ? You 
must not let the old lady or papa suspect that 
she Is fast, you know ; please remember that. 
But you may tell me, and I want to know 
positively — Is she fast ?" 

" I should not call her exactly fast ; to tell 



LETTY GIVES IIER OPINION. 315 

you the truth, I think she is too lazy ; but 
she cannot Hve without admiration and flat- 
tery, and somehow, she contrives to make 
everyone — every man, I mean — do exactly as 
she wishes. I think I was about the only 
one who did not fetch and carry willingly, 
and, the consequence is, I am not a 
favourite." 

** You do not like her, then?" 

" Oh, yes ; I like her well enough, but I 
should never fall in love with her, she is too 
selfish ; and I confess it vexes me sometimes 
to see the way Jack spoils her. She winds 
him completely round her finger." 

'' And is he jealous of her ?" 

'' I am afraid he is. I know there have 
been one or tw^o pitched battles already — 
which she won — about her flirtations. I do 
not think there is any harm in them, but she 
likes to have men dangling about her ; and 
there are women, you know, who do not seem 
able to exist without writing and receiving 



3l6 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

little sentimental notes that really mean 
nothing." 

"Oh! she can write, then?" said Letty. 
'' She never wrote to any of us since she was 
married." 

Filmer laughed. '' I do not think she is 
much of a scribe," he said. 

" I am sure I shall not care for her," said 
Letty, decidedly. "I dislike women of that 
kind very much. I do not think I ever met 
one of them in the flesh, but they are very 
common in books, and they generally make 
mischief." 

"Where Jack was wrong," said Filmer, 
" was in not getting rid, at once, of that maid 
she is so fond of — or so afraid of — I don't 
know which it is. If ever there was a bad 
lot on earth it's Bella Rossitur — or Mrs. 
Pottinger, as she is now, worse luck for that 
poor fellow Pottinger. By the way, he had 
sun-stroke not long after he married her, and 
I think he is very queer in his head at times. 



LETTY GIVES HER OPINION. 317 

He and his wife lead a regular cat and dog 
life, but somehow, after their worst quarrels 
she gets round him again, and he Is ready to 
kill anyone who says a word against her." 

"Is she very handsome .^" 

" Very ; remarkably clever too, and lady- 
like In manner when she chooses ; and Jack 
may say what he likes, but there Is an extra- 
ordinary likeness between her and his w^ife ; 
everyone sees it except Jack, and he gets 
perfectly furious If It Is mentioned before 
him, for Madam Rossltur Is not a favourite 
of his. He would send her packing In no 
time If he were not afraid of vexing his 

wife." 

" I had no Idea Jack was so foolish," Letty 

exclaimed, angrily. " And that Is what comes 

of being In love ; this wonderful love you talk 

so much about, but which seems to me to 

turn sensible men Into semi-idiots." 

''And women Into — what .'^" exclaimed 

Filmer, much amused. 



3l8 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

" I have never seen a woman desperately 
in love, so I do not know. Oh, yes, I believe 
our Rector's wife, who is about three or four 
months married, is supposed to be very much 
in love with her husband. I can only judge 
by the way she stares at him when he is 
preaching ; I often long to throw a hymn 
book at her head." 

Fi.lmer laughed heartily. '' It is quite 
wonderful to find a young lady so deter- 
minately set against love and lovers as you 
are," he said, "but, on the whole, I like the 
good, old, silly fashion the best." 

" I suppose," said Letty, calmly ignoring 
this last remark, "you never heard of the 
wonderful brother this woman Rossitur 
has ?" 

" Never. In what way is he wonderful ?" 

'' As a musician ; he is organist of Stllllng- 
fort Church, his native place ; he has written 
some very pretty songs ; he is very hand- 
some — the handsomest man I ever saw — I 



LETTV GIVES HER OPINION. 319 

think ; and I am afraid Lord Stilllngfort's 
only daughter, Lady Judith Forster, Is In 
love with him." 

*'Here It Is again," cried Fllmer. *'Love Is 
not to be got rid of, you see." 

"I do not object to it In this case," said 
Letty. "There Is something romantic In 
the Earl's daughter being in love with the 
handsome organist, who is the son of a 
farmer on her father's property. But you 
should have seen Lady Judith's face when I 
told her that young Rossitur's sister was 
lady's maid to my brother's wife. Poor 
thing ; I saw it was a blow ; and now suppose 
we give up talking of love and lovers and 
romance, and have a gallop. I know every 
fence between this and the Chase, and Lll 
race you home for a pair of gloves." 

"A dozen if you like; but what would 
Otway say ?" 

"He w^ould race, too, I hope, if he were 
here — come along." 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE WEDDING-DAY. 

It was the eve of Letty Ersklne's wedding- 
day ; long looked forward to, it had come at 
last. They were all in town again ; every- 
thing was ready, and Otway, scarcely able 
to realise that his happiness was almost 
within his grasp, went about during the 
day that immediately preceded that fixed 
for the wedding like a man in a dream. 

Letty was restless, preoccupied ; strangely 
uncertain in temper, and to her lover, if 
possible, more undemonstrative than she 
had been during the early days of her 
engagement. She avoided being alone with 
him, and her treatment of him, while it 
gave him more than one pang of dis- 



THE WEDDING-DAY. 32 I 

appointment and pain, made him long all 
the more ardently for the moment when 
the knowledge that she was his for ever- 
more would break down the barrier raised 
by her coldness and reserve. 

He never guessed how, as the hours went 
by and brought him nearer and nearer to the 
moment he anticipated with such joy, she 
shrank from leaving her home with this man 
to whom she had pledged herself, believing 
that, by-and-by, she would care for him and 
be happy ; and when she questioned herself as 
to the cause of her repugnance to the marriage 
she could find no answer, save that she dis- 
liked him for being less manly in his devotion 
to her than she wished her husband to be. 

It was a strange objection for a girl to 
make to a lover, and Letty made it to herself 
in perfect good faith. She had at times a 
dim suspicion that it was not a valid objection, 
so she never spoke of it to anyone, and she 
fought against it, and even laughed at it 

VOL. I. Y 



22 2 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

"Mv DEAR Mrs. Ogilvey, 

'' I have not forgotten you, and I 
am sorry to hear you are in trouble. Expect 
me to luncheon to-morrow at two. 
" Yours, 

" Herbert Otwav." 

He pushed the note aside, as soon as it 
was written, and, opening a drawer, took out 
a cabinet photograph of Letty Erskine in her 
riding-dress, which, strange to say, she had 
had taken to gratify a desire of his, and fell 
to rapt contemplation of the sweet face he 
loved. Needless to say, he knew every line 
by heart already, but was he ever tired of 
gazing at those saucy laughing eyes, and the 
exquisite turn of the throat and chin ? The 
likeness was an admirable one, as the artist 
had, happily, caught one of his sitter's most 
bewitching expressions, and Otway was such 
a miser about the picture that he longed to 
order the negative to be destroyed. How 
Letty would have admired him, if he had had 



NO. 200, QUEEN S GATE TERRACE. 223 

the audacity to say that he, and he only, 
should possess a copy of that particular 
photograph ; but he did nothing of the kind, 
and, with the most amiable liberality, she 
dispensed them far and wide among her 
admirers. 

It w^as with his mind still full of Letty's 
charms, that Otway at length put his reply to 
Mrs. Ogilvey into an envelope, and rang the 
bell for his servant to take it to the post 
without delay ; then he dressed and went 
down to his chambers. 

He dined at Halkin Street the same 
evening. There was a large dinner-party, and 
he hoped to sit next to Letty, but she was at 
the other end of the table, laughing, talking 
and enjoying herself with some man Otway 
had never seen before. He had known her, 
now in many moods, but he found her in a 
new one on this evening ; she was in the 
wildest spirits, but she scarcely spoke to him ; 
he followed her about, as usual, and once or 



324 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

At length it was over. The last good- 
bye was said — the last handful of rice was 
thrown, and the bride and bridegroom started 
on their short journey to Richmond. Otway 
was radiant when he set out, but when he 
stepped out of the carriage at the end of 
the drive, there was a look of perplexity 
and keen disappointment on his expressive 
face. 

What had gone wrong ? 

He led Letty, in silence, to the drawing- 
room, and left her there, while he dismissed 
the smiling and obsequious coachman ; but 
even when he was free to rejoin his bride 
he lingered for full five minutes before he 
entered the room, and as he turned the 
handle of the door he muttered, "It is very 
hard." 

Letty was seated by the fire ; there was a 
brilliant flush on her cheeks and her eyes 
were sparkling, but, without looking at her, 
Otway walked to the window and stood look- 



THE WEDDING-DAY. 325 

ing at the view over the river, beautiful even 
under the cold sunlight of early spring. 

It was nearly ten minutes before he sud- 
denly turned and faced her. " Letty," he 
said, quietly, but his voice had in it a ring of 
pain that was lost upon her, so absorbed was 
she in her own view of the situation, " did 
you tell me the truth as we drove down from 
town, or were you only jesting, just to try 
me ? For God's sake, my darling, let me 
know the worst at once ; when you told me 
you did not love me you gave me such a 
blow that I was stunned by it ! I cannot 
understand ! I cannot believe it ! I will not 
believe it ! It is a disappointment so cruel — 
so unexpected, that it unmans me — I cannot 
bear it !" and he put up his hands as if to shut 
out some hideous object. As he did so some- 
thing between a sneer and a smile passed over 
Letty's lovely mouth. 

" He will cry presently," she said to her- 
self. Then she said aloud, quite calmly and 



326 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

coldly, '* What I told you Is quite true. I 
am sorry It hurts you so much, but of what 
use Is It to say I love you when I know I do 
not? I have been uncertain about It for a 
long time, but now that we are married, I 
know the mistake I have made. But per- 
haps, If — If you would give me a little time to 
get used to the feeling that what Is done can- 
not be undone, I may not dislike you quite as 
much as I do to-day. Just now, I feel that 
there Is no one In the world so — so — I really 
must say It, or you will not understand — so 
obnoxious to me as you are." 

If she had stuck a knife deep Into his heart 
he could not have endured a keener pang of 
pain. For a few seconds he looked at her 
with half-Incredulous amazement, as If ex- 
pecting that a smile or glance would betray 
the Ill-timed jest, but she looked at him with 
such cold, unloving eyes, that he knew she 
must be In earnest ; and being In cruel, ter- 
rible earnest himself he put the finishing 



THE WEDDING-DAY. 327 

( 

Stroke to his discomfiture by stooping to 
beg for the love he so ardently desired. 

" Letty ! Letty !" he cried, as he threw 
himself at her feet and tried to clasp her 
in his arms, "if you do not love me I shall 
die !" 

A great wave, not of love, but of passionate 
contempt, swept over her as she heard this 
abject appeal ; if he had but given back scorn 
for scorn he would have conquered, but the 
girl who had never known suffering herself, 
and for whom the beauty of self-surrender 
had no meaning, was deaf to the voice of 
pain. 

She drew herself away, and thrusting out 
her hands to push him back, cried sharply, 
"You call yourself a man and say such words 
as those ? I not only do not love you, but I 
despise you ! Go away and leave me to 
myself." 

Stung to the quick, he rose to his feet with 
a bound ; a deep flush of mortification and 



328 A GAME OF CHANCE. 

wounded pride was on his face, and his eyes, 
had she but seen them, were flashing fire ! 
But not one word did he utter, and it was 
only by the bang of the door behind him that 
she knew he was gone. 

When she saw him pass outside the 
French window she gave a great sigh of 
reHef; then pressing her handkerchief to 
her eyes, she remained motionless, save for 
the quick panting of her bosom, which be- 
trayed that she was forcing back hysterical 
sobs. 

It was nearly two hours before Otway 
came back. During his solitary ramble 
among the leafless trees in Richmond Park, 
he had fought a bitter fight, and won a 
victory that was scarcely less disastrous than 
a defeat ; but he was a different man when, 
with the keen sharp wind of the March 
evening blowing in his face, he re-entered 
the cottage. In a short time, he and his 
bride would, once more, be face to face,. 



THE WEDDING-DAY. 329 

but if her mood was changed so also, was 
his. 

When she pushed him from her, he for 
the first time, saw himself and his slavish 
devotion with her contemptuous eyes, and 
never again should she have the opportunity 
given her to address "him as she had done 
that afternoon. *' By Heaven!" he said, 
" she must kneel to me before one word of 
love passes my lips again." 

But there was another shock in store for 
him. When, at eight o'clock, dinner was 
announced, Mrs. Otway was nowhere to be 
found. 



END OF FIRST VOLUME. 



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